The Peculiar Children Series by Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books
Quick note – This is a review of all 3 books in the Peculiar Children series, so it’s a bit long, especially for the first book, which sets up the series. Also, it contains some spoilers, but I did try to be as vague as possible for some of, what I considered, the most critical plot points. Also, the movie trailer is out, with the theatrical release scheduled for September 2016.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Book 1
I came upon this first book while browsing through my local Barnes and Noble. I was really intrigued by the cover, and then saw that the book was sprinkled throughout with these really weird and wacky photographs. I read the blurb on the inside cover, and even though it didn’t seem like something that I would typically read, I thought “why not”. I’m glad I took the chance. It’s an interesting and fun, fantastical story.
The book opens with –
“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.”
And this is how we’re introduced to Jacob Portman, a pretty typical teenage boy from Florida.
As a young boy, Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather Abraham tell him stories of growing up in an orphanage, fighting in wars, traveling the world, and performing in circuses. He would listen attentively to stories of monsters and fantastical creatures, like a bird that smoked a pipe. It wasn’t until Jacob got a little older, and he started to doubt these stories, that Abraham showed him pictures of some of the “peculiar” children that he grew up with in the orphanage. But Jacob still wasn’t convinced, and after being made fun of in school for believing in fairy tales, Jacob stopped asking his grandfather to tell the stories all together.
A few years later, one night at work, Jacob gets a frantic phone call from his grandfather and he races to his home. But he’s too late. He finds his grandfather in the woods behind the house, covered in blood and barely alive. With his last breath, Abraham implores Jacob to go to “the island”, and to find the “bird” and the “loop”. Jacob promises, and as Abraham slips away Jacob feels a presence watching him.
This is how Jacob’s adventure begins. After finding an old letter in his grandfather’s belongings, he convinces his parents to let him travel to Wales to learn more about his grandfather’s life, and the orphanage that he grew up in. His father, who writes books about birds, decides to take Jacob to Wales in order get some new material for his book, and with the hope that Jacob will finally get these crazy ideas about his grandfather out his system.
On an island, off the coast of Wales, Jacob finds the children’s home – old and decrepit but still there. As he wanders through the old abandoned building he hears a young girl’s voice, and as he looks around a light catches his eye – up on the second floor of the crumbling building, he sees children’s faces looking down at him through the broken floor.
Freaked out, Jacob runs from the girl, fighting his way through the fog and the mud, eventually finding himself in front of a large pile of rocks with an opening that leads to a sort of tunnel. Of course Jacob enters the tunnel, and somehow finds himself back on the road to the town where he and his father are staying. But something is seriously wrong, and he eventually figures out that he’s in the right place – but in the wrong time!
Jacob’s adventure takes him back to 1940, where he meets the peculiar children, including Emma, the voice he heard in the old children’s home. Emma explains that he’s found the “loop”, which allows them to travel through time. She takes him to meet Miss Peregrine, the woman who runs the orphanage, and he learns that his grandfather was a “peculiar”. He also learns that his grandfather didn’t make up those old stories of weird birds, creatures, and monsters – they were all true – and Jacob is about to come face to face with them as events start to spiral out of control and Miss Peregrine is kidnapped!
And this is where the story twists and turns, and gets really wild and crazy as the children go after their beloved Miss Peregrine.
Hollow City – Book 2
We catch up with Jacob and the children, who have rescued Miss Peregrine, and are now being hunted by the creatures that kidnapped her. Fleeing by boat, the children are caught in a wicked storm, and after a harrowing night they finally land on a beach. Before they can even breathe a sigh of relief however, they realize that they’ve been followed. As they run for their lives into the forest they realize that they’re hopelessly lost, and have no idea where they are or how to find a safe place to hide. Finally though, luck seems to be on their side, and they happen upon a caravan of traveling gypsies, who are eventually convinced to help them.
But, as always with luck, it only lasts so long and things start to go very wrong. They’re continually running from danger, meeting strange people and animals along the way. Their adventures take them to a bombed out London, to an underground crypt in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and eventually to a loop that leads them to a building covered in thick ice that serves to protect it. It’s here that Jacob and the children realize that things are not all as they should be with Miss Peregrine.
Library of Souls – Book 3
Library of Souls begins with the entire peculiar world on the brink of destruction, and Jacob and Emma are determined to save it. They need to get to the Library of Souls to stop something very evil from being unleashed, which would cause dire consequences to all that they love.
Speaking of love, Jacob and Emma have fallen in love during their dangerous adventure, and are starting to think about how they can continue their future together. It seems a lost cause, for one thing they’re not even sure they’ll be able to survive all the danger; and secondly, there’s the problem of being from two different times.
Jacob’s maturity begins in the second book, but it’s during this last book that we finally get to see the hero emerge. He is now closer to the Jacob that his grandfather likely envisioned when regaling him with his old stories of peculiar children, creatures and monsters. It seems that Jacob has finally grown up and he’s realized that it’s on him now to step up:
“I could feel all the disparate strands my silly and scattered life converging toward a single point, unseen behind those walls. That’s where it was: the thing I had to do—or die trying.”
Along with Jacob and Emma on this do-or-die mission is their faithful companion, Addison. Addison is actually introduced in the second book, and is a “peculiar” as well – he’s a talking dog. Intelligent and pragmatic, Addison is also tirelessly loyal and extremely brave (of course he is – he’s a boxer)! Add in a kind of weird and creepy ferryman, and you’ve got a finale worthy of this series.
Finally, my thoughts – I was very pleasantly surprised. This is storytelling at its very best when it comes to fantasy, or even fairy tales. The characters are great – funny, smart, sympathetic; and the camaraderie is what makes this series so wonderful. There is a ton of action and adventure, with just enough tension and creepiness to keep you on the edge of your seat. Throughout the entire series you find yourself rooting for Jacob, Emma and all of the peculiars, including Addison, and of course Miss Peregrine.
And of course, I’d be quite negligent in my review if I didn’t mention the photographs used in the books. They are quite fantastic, weird, creepy, and some, even unbelievable. Just looking at the covers of all three books gives you a sense of the kind of photos you’ll see inside. I highly recommend you visit Riggs’ website, where you’ll find information on his books, his own photography, and the movie trailer –
Lastly, I just want to add the blurb for his new book, “Tales of the Peculiar”, that I saw on the website:
“Before Miss Peregrine gave them a home, the story of the peculiars was written in the ‘Tales of the Peculiar’. Releasing September 3rd, 2016.
Wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars. A fork-tongued princess. These are but a few of the stories in Tales of the Peculiar—the collection of fairy tales known to hide information about the peculiar world, including clues to the locations of time loops—first introduced in the #1 bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. You are invited to learn these secrets of peculiar history, with a collection of original stories in this deluxe volume of Tales of the Peculiar. Featuring stunning illustrations from world-renowned artist Andrew Davidson, this compelling, rich, and truly peculiar anthology is perfect for fans and those new to the series, as well.”
Sounds like I’ll be adding that one to my collection!
As always, please feel fee to leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from fans of the series, and hear what you think of the movie trailer.