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Book Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (2/5)

27 Jul

I was a little underwhelmed with the first book in this series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which I reviewed last year. But the book left off on such a cliffhanger that I decided I would eventually continue the series. Obviously I was in no rush. My husband and I had a nine-hour drive on our camping vacation so we decided to knock this one out. I’m left with much the same feeling.

Cover image via

Cover image via

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Summary from Goodreads:

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

This lackluster summary is appropriate for this book, which has a serious case of ‘Second Book Syndrome.’ The first book introduced us to a ton of unusual characters and a cool underground world where the second one gave us a lot of throw-away characters and introduced too many new main characters. The idea of the first book being a story to string together the odd photographs was great, but the new pictures have entirely different people in them and seemed to necessitate adding another large number of characters to the second book. I didn’t find that necessary and it was a bit overwhelming. I was also highly disappointed in the ending. I thought it rendered the rest of the book pointless. I put the final one on my TBR, but at this point it feels like morbid curiosity than eagerness.

I found the relationship between Emma and Jacob really forced and disturbing. It diminished Emma as a character for me, which is unfortunate because she’s such a main presence in the book. For someone who seemed to be pining after Abe in the first book, she’s very quick to crush on the guy’s grandson. Plus, isn’t that creepy? I think it’s really creepy. The fact that it didn’t bother Jacob either got to me. He acted too much like a love-struck puppy for me and it seemed at odds with his authoritative leadership among the Peculiars. It was all too inconsistent for me.

Bronwyn became a very stand-out character for me in this book. I don’t remember her playing such a big role in the first novel, probably because she was too busy taking care of Victor. In this book, she takes care of everyone else. I thought it was a good development of her role.

I remember the rebellious feelings Jacob has. I remember how that felt when I was sixteen. I thought my parents were wrong about everything and were only trying to control me. But I realized they were right. I was better off staying away from dangerous people and being home rather than God-knows-where. If Jacob had just stayed put, would all of this have happened? Probably not. I understand why Jacob pushed against his parents, but I wish he’d take a little credit for what’s happened.

Ransom Riggs Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Ransom Riggs
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I liked the menagerie. I thought those characters, though only two talked, were well-developed and I saw a purpose to having gone there and learning what they did. I’m glad Addison came back in the end because I think he could be a really good character to have in the final book.

The ending ruined the whole book for me. I’m going to talk about it now so skip to the end if you haven’t read this and don’t want to know what happens. Finding out that the bird wasn’t Miss Peregrine all along makes their whole journey to save her pointless. Without it, they would be lost and vulnerable on an island. Now they’re lost and vulnerable in London and we have a lot of other characters involved. I feel like nothing important happened in the book. There wasn’t a lot of character development to justify a circular plot. It makes me want to give up on the series, but I need to know that something substantial happens in the final book at the same time. So conflicted.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Kirby Heyborne. He is not the same person who narrated the first book in the series and I noticed the difference as soon as we started it. Heyborne did a fine job, don’t get me wrong, but I think I prefer the previous narrator. Though I did enjoy the droll sarcasm of Jacob in Heyborne’s voice. I was getting a bit sick of the accents by  the end because I was thinking that if I read the book, I wouldn’t have to deal with them. It was a bit cumbersome but helped keep the characters apart in my head.

The end of the book reminded me a lot of the end of Catching Fire in the Hunger Games series. There’s a war starting and even teenagers have to decide if they should stand and fight. In reality, it is teenagers who have to make this decision as young as eighteen (seventeen if you’re a wizard). Knowing what’s right and what’s worth fighting for is important and unfortunately for Jacob, it’s come down to life or death to push the issue for him.

Writer’s Takeaway: Characters, characters, and more characters! Way too many for me. I know Riggs likes using the vintage pictures to bring characters into his books, but I think it caused him to introduce too many. Not every picture needed to turn into a new peculiar in this world. It was overwhelming. I was given the general rule that if you can take a character out, to do it. Too many characters confuse the reader.

Not as engaging as the first but still well written. Two out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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