Hollow City

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Hollow City was written by Ransom Riggs and first published in 2014. It forms the second part of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series and follows Jacob and his friends as they travel across blitz-torn England. The novel is preceded by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2011) and followed by Library of Souls (2015) and Map of Days (2018). I would strongly recommend reading these novels in sequence if you want to have any idea what is going on.

With any hope of returning to his own time stolen, Jacob Portman now has no choice but to help his newfound friends to save Miss Peregrine. Following her injuries, their caretaker has not been able to return to her human form. It’s not long before they learn that she is now in terrible danger. Miss Peregrine can only be cured by another Ymbryne. If the children can’t find one in three days, she will lose her humanity and become a bird forever.

No longer protected by the loop, the children begin a long journey across the country in search of allies. However, they have been stranded in the 1940s and so it is not the safest time for the children to travel alone. People are suspicious of strangers and are quick to accuse those who stand out of being German spies. And at night, the bombs begin to fall.

To make matters worse, the children are still being relentlessly pursued by both Wights and Hollows. Every loop they come across seems to have already been ransacked and Jacob and his friends are forced to face the grim possibility that they are now the only ones left. Yet what can the Wights possibly be planning and where are they taking the kidnapped Ymbrynes?

I’ve procrastinated about writing this review over the last couple of weeks, as I was not sure exactly how to word my dissatisfaction. It’s been a couple of years since I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but it’s one of those novels that has really stuck with me. Because I loved the first book so much, I think I just wanted to like Hollow City more than I ultimately did.

While Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a slow-burning novel, it did at least eventually build to something. Hollow City, on the other hand, seemed to be severely afflicted by middle novel syndrome. The story was just all filler, chronicling a very long journey across war-torn London. While the protagonists did occasionally have run-ins with Wights, the story broke off just as things started to get interesting. While I don’t want to reveal too much here for fear of spoilers, I will just say that I was left feeling that this was too little, too late. Hollow City was just a 400 page build up for what looks to be the very exciting final instalment of the original trilogy.

While Hollow City does not have as many twists and turns as the first book, it did add some new elements to the Peculiar world. This included the introduction of Peculiar animals, which I was surprised to find wasn’t as ridiculous as it first sounds. I mean, in a world where a boy can have a swarm of bees living in his stomach, why shouldn’t dogs be able to talk? Rigg’s fascinating photographs also still add a lot to the story and, for this reason, I would certainly recommend purchasing a physical copy of this book. The often-surreal Victorian pictures help the reader to visualise all of the fantastical characters and settings, adding an odd sense of realism to the tale.

Yet, these were not enough to save the novel for me. The pacing of Hollow City was incredibly slow and unfortunately lost my interest on a couple of occasions. Jacob’s first-person narrative still felt a little unnatural to me – overly descriptive and full of purple prose in a way that American teenagers do not tend to speak. I was also struck this time by how American the other Peculiar children sound. This just didn’t sit quite right with me, especially given the fact that they were almost all English and from the 1940s. However, perhaps this can be partially explained by the fact that the narrative voice is from present day America.

The eventual twist of the novel, as you may have already guessed, was also a little frustrating. It cut the story off on a bitter note, rendering a lot of the childrens’ actions over the course of this novel to be pointless and not really resolving anything. It made me feel as though Hollow City had been a bit of a waste of time, as well as making me annoyingly obligated to read Library of Souls in order to find out how things will conclude.

However, the saving grace of Hollow City was its characters. While I was frustrated that the book quickly abandoned two of the female protagonists, leaving a predominately male cast, I did love how unique each Peculiar was. This went far beyond their powers, as each spoke with a remarkably different voice and had plenty of room to develop over the course of the story. With such a large ensemble cast, this was an especially impressive feat.

Naturally, a lot of this development was saved for Jacob and Emma, whose relationship evolved in a very organic way over the course of the story. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more of this (Emma’s sudden rejection of Jacob towards the climax came a bit out of left field), it was nice to see the two of them bonding more as it felt as though everything was happening at a very natural pace.

So anyway, I don’t have much more to say about this one. All in all, Hollow City was a bit disappointing. While the strong characters made me want to read on, the novel was slow-burning and stuffed with far too much unnecessary filler. Hopefully, Riggs will be able to get things back on track in the next instalment.

Hollow City can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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