Hollow City by Ransom RiggsI’ve been dragging my heels on this review because I feel conflicted. I was excited about the sequel, even though I have qualms about the over-abundance of series, and I was thrilled when the publisher sent me a copy for review. However, something in this book just didn’t hook me in the same ways as the first book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Hollow City was published January 14, 2014.

The second novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 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.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

From Random House of Canada, the Canadian distributor for publisher Quirk Books.

Fair Warning: This review includes spoilers for the first book.

Hollow City begins at the end of the first book, the loop is no longer safe, they just rescued Miss Peregrine, and the children know that the other headmistresses (called Ymbrynes) have been taken by the bad guys (Hollowgasts) for some nefarious purpose. Unfortunately, their beloved headmisress Miss Peregrine appears to be trapped in her avian form, and they need the help of another headmistress to change her back to human. They decide to go an find the last unraided loop (a time-controlled and protected safe area that headmistresses guard for peculiar children), although they have no idea where it actually is.

I had to reread / skim the last few chapters of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because the opening scenes of Hollow City completely lost me. I read the first book in March 2012, and didn’t remember the particular details of the ending. Because there was very little recap, or any ‘memory jog’ wasn’t given in-depth explanation, I felt quite lost and needed a story refresher. A simple prologue would have helped immensely in this regard.

Aside from this, one of the main problems I had with Hollow City was the non-stop action. They were constantly off from one place to the next, just a few minutes before the hollowgast hunters found them, and they always seemed to get out of trouble in the nick of time. The fact that they kept getting into dangers, and then successfully escaping them again and again became repetitive and boring after a while.

I found it kind of unrealistic for a bunch of characters who are essentially Child-Like Adults: responsibility-wise they’ve always been looked after by their headmistress, but yet they’ve lived for countless years in the Loop and mentally matured. So the fact that the children handled the Real World so seamlessly and adeptly felt very inauthentic.

The other inauthentic part, for me, was the narrative, specifically the voice. I didn’t notice this issue with the first book, but with the narrative being by Jacob, it felt weird to refer to their group as ‘the children’ instead of ‘we’ or ‘us’. It felt like Jacob was telling the story from the future, all grown up and referring to his friends as kids.

In the first book, all the Peculiars were just kids with weird abilities, but in Hollow City we learn the back stories about some of the secondary characters who were rejected by their families and/or shunned by society. But aside from Jacob, and a handful of scenes with Emma, Millard, and Enoch, the characters overall didn’t feel very developed. They were much too busy running, and Riggs spent too much time just documenting their travelogue that there wasn’t enough real time dedicated to character development. Jacob’s development was handled well—his worry about his own family was coupled with his concern for his new friends and the Peculiar world, of which he is now part of.

I found I was having difficulty keeping the characters (Jacob and 9 others) straight. The interactions of the characters were fairly shallow, except for Jacob and Emma, and they even ditched a couple characters mid-adventure. The character’s who separated from the main group made sense; keeping everyone along for the ride was taking away from the energy. But even some of the characters that stayed on the adventure were still fairly flat. I think that less characters (4, max) would have allowed more dynamic evolution of their personalities.

One thing that all the running around and travel allowed was more Loop jumping. A loop was only briefly introduced in the first book as a means of keeping them safe and hidden. However, with Miss Peregrine in bird form, and the loop collapsed, we got to learn a lot more about the actual thing. Riggs’ imagination was in full form and they travel in and out of several loops, which only Peculiars can do.

The use of the antique photographs in Hollow City felt a lot more forced than it did in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The first book felt like the photographs complimented the story, or were used as a jumping off point. Whereas in the sequel, it felt like the story and action were being forced in particular directions in order to integrate a photograph. The whole section where they went to a British carnival/travelling sideshow felt like a deliberate catering to the photographs.

Overall, definitely a bridge book, intended to take the success of the first, and create suspense for the third. I was left feeling very ‘meh’ about the whole thing. However, the cliffhanger at the end will definitely have me coming back to read the third (untitled) installment in Spring 2015.