If you love mysteries and creepy stories, this is one of the best and most unusual series in quite some time. It utilizes old and special photographs as a means of enhancing the story. It was a New York Times Bestseller, and really, I loved it from the moment I picked it up! Though I read the first one some time ago, I recently read the second, but I included both here for you all.
From the time he was a little boy, Jacob Portman has been listening to his grandfather’s strange fantasy stories about a girl who can levitate, another who can hold fire, a boy living with bees inside him, and more, mostly about his grandfather’s orphanage in Wales under their caretaker, “the bird.” As Jacob grows up, he realizes these are just fairy stories, because there could be no way that the children and the horrific monsters were real. However, when Jacob’s grandfather calls him in a panic, and Jacob rushes to his rescue only to find his grandfather lying in a pool of blood an a glimpse of something terrifying, it’s Jacob who’s called crazy. His family sends him to a psychiatrist, and Jacob doesn’t know what’s true and what’s false. This line gets even more blurred when he is allowed to visit Cairnholm, the island where his grandfather grew up in the 1930’s. There, he discovers something very odd. The orphanage his grandfather came from was supposedly blown up by a bomb in the war. Everyone at the orphanage was to have died, even his grandfather. Things just aren’t adding up, until Jacob finds a group of children observing him combing through the old orphanage’s wreckage. He pursues them and finds himself transported to September 3rd, 1940. The day when the bomb hit. From there, many things begin to make sense, and Jacob discovers friends, truth about his family’s past, and that he actually has his own “peculiar” power.
Do I even need to say it?
Spoiler alert below!
As this story begins, we find Jacob, Emma, and the other peculiar children (Hugh, Fiona, Olive, Bronwyn, Harold, Millard, Claire, and Enoch) on the island that has begun moving from it’s time traveling loop (finally, in 60-70-ish years, time has progressed on to September 4th, 1940), having just rescued Miss Peregrine from a submarine filled with wights (evil-shape shifting monsters). However, their beloved headmistress was injured in the fight, and cannot change back into her human form without another ymbryne’s help. The children know that the wights will be after them, so they decide they must leave the island. (At this point, I should probably mention that Jacob had decided to stay in 1940. For the reasons why, you’ll just have to read the first book.) When the children arrive on the mainland, wight soldiers are indeed looking for them. The children, using a book of old peculiar fables, manage to escape by venturing into another loop, that of Miss Wren, the only ymbryne yet left free. But the occupants of Miss Wren’s loop say she has gone to rescue the captured ymbrynes in London. It’s up to the children to find their way there, survive the wights and German bombs, and try to save Miss Peregrine before it’s too late. On their travels, we might discover more about the children’s past, Jacob’s powers, and the fate of other peculiar children. But if they fail in their mission, it might be the end of all peculiars with a fate worse than death awaiting them in the hands of the wights.
Brief excerpt from Hollow City (pgs. 32-33):
We followed [Horace and Fiona] back he way they’d come, curving around a bend in the beach and climbing a small embankment. I wondered how we could have possibly missed something as obvious as hot air balloons, until we crested a hill and I saw them–not the big, colorful teardrop-shaped things you see in wall calendars and motivational posters (“The sky’s the limit!”), but a pair of miniature zeppelins: black egg-shaped sacs of gas with skeletal cages hung below them, each containing a single pilot. The craft were small and flew low, banking back and forth in lazy zigzags, and the noise of the surf had covered the subtle whine of their propellers. Emma herded us into the tall saw grass and we dropped down out of sight.
“They’re submarine hunters,” Enoch said, answering the question before anyone had asked it. Millard might’ve been the authority when it came to maps and books, but Enoch was an expert in all things military. “The best way to spot enemy subs is from the sky,” he explained.
“Then why are they flying so close to the ground?” I asked. “And why aren’t they father out to sea?”
“That I don’t know.”
“Do you think they could be looking for . . . us?” Horace ventured.
“If you mean could they be wights,” said Hugh, “don’t be daft. The wights are with the Germans. They’re on that German sub.”
“The wights are allied with whomever it suits their interests to be allied with,” Millard said. “There’s no reason to think they haven’t infiltrated organizations on both sides of the war.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off the strange contraptions in the sky. They looked unnatural, like mechanical insects bloated with tumorous eggs.
“I don’t like the way they’re flying,” Enoch said, calculating behind his sharp eyes. “They’re searching the coastline, not the sea.”
“Searching for what?” asked Bronwyn, but the answer was obvious and frightening and no on wanted to say it aloud.
They were searching for us.
We were all squeezed together in the grass, and I felt Emma’s body tense next to mine. “Run when I say run,” she hissed. “We’ll hide the boats, then ourselves.”
We waited for the balloons to zag away, then tumbled out of the grass, praying we were too far away to be spotted. As we ran I found myself wishing that the fog which had plagued us at sea would return again to hide us. It occurred to me that it had very likely saved us once already; without the fog those balloons would’ve spotted us hours ago, in our boats, when we’d had nowhere to run. And in that way, it was one last thing the island had done to save its peculiar children.
This is such a unique way to present a novel, especially a sci-fi/fantasy novel. I very much enjoyed all the characters and the blending of bits of historical fiction into the narrative. I also had the pleasure to listen to the audiobook of Miss Peregrine, and it was wonderful! Parts made me laugh, and the narrator even attempted to do different accents from Great Britain. While Hollow City was great and all, it did not in the least quench my thirst to know the elusive what happens next. It only made me hungrier for the next book. However, I couldn’t find any mention of book three as of yet. Alas.
There are a few mentions of strong language and violence in the books. Other than that and some kissing, it’s basically PG.