Hollow City: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Book 2 (Quirk Books)
Due to certain valid preconceptions about the state of modern Young-Adult fiction, many readers will hesitantly read over the book’s premise for any tell-tale signs of the dreaded love-triangle trope. If you are unfamiliar with this trope, you obviously have not been reading enough Young-adult fiction, since nearly every YA book seems obligated to have some kind of love triangle. Without naming names, there are a surplus of YA books with a certain detail attached that makes even the bravest reader cringe. The premise might hint at an intricate story-line with fascinating characters. Sure, the book is probably even competently written,but the dreaded detail that prevents readers from sometimes picking up YA books is the cringe-worthy “Yes, so-and-so must bravely vanquish the forces of evil, but he/she has still has to make the ultimate choice between one desirable love interest over the other.” That is enough to make any discriminating reader immediately put down the book, and rush over to the general fiction section, where such books are fortunately trapped in the infernal Romance section.
So, you are probably reading that first paragraph, and wondering “And, what the hell does this have to do with Miss Peregrine?” As with the first novel, this brilliant, refreshing sequel is strangely a subversion of the typical Young-adult novel. Yes, there is a romantic subplot, but be rest assured that this subplot is very well-handled and it never reigns supreme over the far more interesting story elements that are at play in this book that I swear contracted the most virile disease of contagious creativity ever. From the first pages of the book, you are plunged immediately into the action without any expository detours. Well, there are a few, but it’s not enough to stall the frantic pace of the action, as the peculiar children are making their way to 1940 London to save their enchanted, Time Lord-esque headmistress, Miss Peregrine.
Here, we get re-introduced to most clever usage of timey-wimey stuff ever, since Doctor Who named the time dimensional wackiness with that nonsensical name. So, all the strange time mechanics (you know, the Einstein stuff that defines time as subjective as your teacher’s opinion of your history essay) or timey-wimey stuff is brilliantly reintroduced into this second novel with a few more interesting timey-wimey connotations. Yes, the main protagonist from the first story may have been from the modern era, but the dimensional rabbit-hole that the peculiar children’s home can be found in is frozen in 1940. Since time itself is Einsteinian and non-linear, the future Jacob can interact with the peculiar children (who are essentially frozen, along with this dimension, in time). They are now traveling in 1940 England, at a time when England is quite literally being besieged by Nazi forces. Without spoiling the first novel too much, they are trying to save their headmistress, the leader of this so-called clan of peculiar children, who happens to be stuck in the form of a bird. There is so much more to the plot, but this is a review, so I will hold off from divulging any more about all the insane, head-scratching stuff that occurs right from the get-go of this novel.
You can tell I loved this novel because I cannot stop thinking over how complex the time mechanics are. Unlike other time-travel novels, this one fits more with the true Einstein nature of time. I swear Ransom Riggs was consulting some of the same Michio Kaku books I’ve been reading to get some far-out ideas to utilize in this eccentric series. By implementing these scientific concepts so seamlessly in the story, you almost feel that there really are peculiar children and alternative dimensions existent within our reality (think rabbit holes in Alice in Wonderland). Essentially, this novel falls into the English Eccentric genre, which I believe started with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is continued today with the Miss Peregrine novels. While other steampunk novels certainly fall into this category, I feel like they don’t qualify completely because they might either be too redundant of other steampunk novels, and not distinctive enough. Hollow City, much like the first book, is not necessarily steampunk, and that is why it accomplishes so much creatively because it never really fits within a genre. It is its own enigma, and it is even more clever than the first novel.
When you read it, you will be transported to other dimensions, and you’ll forget that you even exist for a time. Your mind will be pervaded with such fascinating images of an alternative look at the fascinating world of England that you thought Lewis Carol himself could only conceive. After reading this book, you will research the air bombings in London during World War II, and be astonished just how starkly realized that this event is within the novel (ooops.. another slight spoiler). It is a novel you’ll want to treasure, and re-read from the start. You’ll cheer on the peculiar, as they quite literally fight against Hollows and Wights that seek to eradicate all this is peculiar and subversive in the world.
If you haven’t read the first book, read that first, and plan some time ahead to plunge yourself head-first in the sequel thereafter. We haven’t seen a dimensional England adventure this grandiose and this epic, since Philip Pullman penned the His Dark Material series. These books come with a high recommendation from me. They are superbly written, and have so much creativity that it is a refreshing reminder that there are still publishers out there taking risks with very, very creative, otherwise unorthodox titles.
Thanks again to Quirk Books for providing me a review copy!! And no, getting a free copy, in no way, influenced my opinion of this wonderful book.
Until next time, remember that the most unlikely people can be time lords!