Ransom Riggs took a sharp turn in "Hollow City", which was published in 2014. It still retained the dreamy elements that turned "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", its prequel, into a bestseller. It was also a folklore, even a war novel. Young-adult readers could relate to the tribulation of Jacob Portman, who once had an uneventful, spoiled life in Florida. The death of his grandfather, Abraham Portman, prompted the teenage lad to travel to Great Britain, the epicenter of peculiardom.
Riggs's penchant for black-and-white photography was a plus factor, as color photos would kept "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" and "Hollow City" less than ordinary. As a matter of fact, the black-and-white photos of the peculiar children, as well as the shadows of (disguised) hollowgasts and wights, should prompt readers to pause and imagine the heart-stopping events that brought out the best out of Jacob and the other peculiars under Alma LeFay Peregrine, a ymbryne who could manipulate time. (Ymbrynes are female peculiars who are tasked to protect kids with special abilities.) There would be romance in the unknown, which should diminished after having setting foot in that unfamiliar place (or accomplished the seemingly impossible). It would be better not to reveal it all, which Riggs would do in this novel.
Long day's journey into night
Jacob Portman, along with Emma Bloom, Millard Nullings, Enoch O'Connor, Horace Somnusson, Bronwyn Bruntley, Hugh Apiston, Claire Densmor, Olive Elephanta, and Fiona Frauenfeld, left the island of Cairnholm, which protected them from the hollowgasts and wights for decades. It was September 1940, when the wights collaborated with the Nazis in an attempt to lay their hands on the ymbrynes and use them for their diabolic experiment. They were once part of their brethren, who thought that they found a way to prevent the acceleration of aging after getting out the loop. (A time loop is a Groundhod Day of sort. It delays the inevitable, which will be death of humans and peculiars alike.) A test in the Siberian tundra (during the summer of 1908) turned into a catastrophic explosion, where the renegade ymbrynes became hideous hollowgasts.
It was a cruel twist of irony, where the former ymbrynes achieved the immortality they sought for such a long time. But it was an eternity of suffering and isolation. What remained of the ymbrynes might help these renegades reverse the outcome. It happened that two members of that group were Miss Peregrine's two brothers, both brilliant men but lacking in sense.
Jacob and the rest of the peculiars were able to rescue Miss Peregrine from the clutches of Dr. Golan, Jacob's shrink who turned out to be a wight. (Dr. Golan could have killed Jacob during his distressed moments, right after the death of his grandfather. But the psychiatrist suspected Jacob's peculiar ability early. The doctor let the teenage boy led him to a richer prize, which would be a time loop in the remote island of Cairnholm.) Alas, Miss Peregrine was unable to make a transformation (from peregrine falcon to human form). She would remain in that state if the children wouldn't find another ymbryne (to help Miss Peregrine in her transformation) in three days. It happened that the wights rounded up most of the ymbrynes. Balenciaga Wren, headmistress of a menagerie for peculiar animals, was the only known one in the loose. She was believed to be hiding in London.
What a fantastic world
"Tales of the Peculiar", a collection of fairy tales published last year, should be a companion piece to "Hollow City". These short stories revealed the history of peculiardom, which wasn't confined to Europe. (One tale told the life of a young Chinese merchant, who resisted the urge to turn into a desert island in the Indian Ocean. This was the fate of his old man, who was also a wealthy merchant.) Millard would use these tales to locate Miss Wren's pigeons, who should lead them to their headmistress.
Riggs's knowledge of the past seemed to pour all over "Hollow City". If his depiction of the history Great Britain (from the 19th century to World War II) wasn't impressive enough, then readers shouldn't missed the author's allusion to the Jews and gypsies. They were once outcasts, who endured a great deal of suffering for centuries. Some readers might have suspected Riggs's Jewish background, but he was in fantasy mode. Any references to the mutants would mislead both fans of the peculiar kids and X-Men. There would be one more thing: Riggs ventured into Swiftian territory. Miss Wren's menagerie may be reminiscent of Lemuel Gulliver's final voyage, where his encounters with the Houyhnhnm and Yahoos turned him into a misanthropist. There won't be any trace of satire in Riggs's description, but Addison MacHenry should delight the readers. (He's a pretentious boxer who doesn't like normals and peculiars ignoring him.)
The open ending in "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" would give readers a hint that "Hollow City" must have a follow up. Miss Wren and the peculiar children were stunned to discover that the bird turned out to be Caul, Miss Peregrine's sinister brother. A wight who was able to transform into animal form (and manipulate the kids). He also managed to enter through time loops without detection. Jacob managed to escape from his grip, but he must go to Devil's Acre. It would be the underbelly of London, but not only in its literal sense. Readers must take a day tour of London, a travel feature that should turn “Hollow City” into an adventure of a lifetime. Make it three.