Hollow City

February 10, 2014 at 11:08 am (Reads) (, )

Hollow CityHollow City by Ransom Riggs


I adored Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, enough so that as soon as this book hit the stores, I went out to buy it.  What impressed me the most about the first novel was the way that Riggs managed to capture the heart of a relationship between two people, enough so to make me feel so connected to them that when one of them died, it was a gut-wrenching affair.  This isn’t an easy thing to do in fiction (at least, in some of the fiction I’ve read, it appears to be a hard thing to do), but he managed to do so within about 30 pages.  I still recommend that book to folks, for that very reason.

Hollow City, on the other hand, doesn’t have that deftness of characterization.  In fact, most of the characters feel very two-dimensional, including the main characters who were introduced to us in the first novel.  I’m not sure if this is because the author assumes we’re already familiar with them, but it was a bit disappointing to miss what made the first one such a joy to read.

Also, the first novel was fairly self-contained, as far as the setting went.  The children were all on Miss Peregrine’s island, safe, secure, and isolated; in Hollow City, the children are forced to leave the island, taking them on a journey through a lot of different places as they attempt to save Miss Peregrine’s life.  It made the novel feel very disjointed and forced, since it felt more like a string of random occurrences than a well-crafted plot.  It might have been the photos that drove that development, though.  In the book, it was clear when Riggs was reaching the point where he was describing the photo (other than the photos being the point where something really strange was about to happen, the level of description changed to make it very clear), and it felt like he was structuring the story around the photos rather than the other way around.  I don’t remember the details of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children well enough to know if it felt that way in that book, but I don’t recall noticing it.

Speaking of forced, the relationship between Jacob and Emma felt that way, too.  It wasn’t that I didn’t buy it so much as I didn’t understand its relevance beyond how Riggs used it to create some tension near the end of the story.  It seemed like it could have been a more central subplot, but instead it felt like it was used just as a means to an end.  A young peculiar and an old one; why not take more time to develop the challenges there, instead of just throwing that potential away?

All that being said, though, it’s clear that Riggs is a good writer.  He has moments of poignancy, both in his writing and in how he sets a scene, enough so to make me take a step back from the story and admire the way that he puts his words together.  He seems to have a good understanding of human nature, and a good way of translating that into his stories.  Even if the story gets a little clunky, those moments kept me reading, and besides, I can’t pretend like I wasn’t engaged through the story.  I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next.

So, yes, I enjoyed the novel, but I wanted to enjoy it a lot more.  I’ll continue reading the series, if for no other reason than to pick up after the cliffhanger ending of this volume, but I hope the next one will feel more like the first one.

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