After hearing about a new film, which appeared to depict a world where the somewhat different are celebrated, I decided to take the plunge and before making the trip to the cinema, read the full trilogy of Ransom Riggs’s stories about Miss. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
I had no preconceptions and other than seeing a billboard clip of the film at Waterloo station, really didn’t know the type of story I was about to become involved in.
The books are classed as teen fiction, but much like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series before them, this trio of fantasy novels is also infinitely appealing to adults, with the language and subject matter of sufficient complexity.
The first installment (Miss. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) introduces us to the world and again much like its hugely successful predecessors, the intricacies of Riggs’s Peculiardom have been extremely well thought through, so that we are faced with centuries worth of history, which our central teenage character, Jacob, is only just beginning to scratch the surface of when we meet him within his affluent and yet mundane life in Florida. Think terrifying creatures, time travel loops and children with superpowers and you’ll get an idea of the adventure our seemingly ordinary hero is about to embark on.
With a whole world to explain and some very complicated rules to establish, the story at times becomes a little too stationary and you have to get through quite a large chunk of the text, before you finally meet the titular character. Once the action gets going, however, you will be pleased that you have put in then groundwork, as the story whips along with fervor and energy, quickly introducing multiple characters and twisting the plot to a point where, if you had not already established a grounding in the fantastical world, you would easily become lost in the frantic escapade.
By the end of the first novel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book, The Hollow City, which further establishes the characters, relationships and the exciting world. We are taken on both a geographical and multi dimensional journey, with more of the history of the world explained, while Jacob begins to realise why he has become such an integral part of the peculiar population. A love story also begins to expose itself, making the second novel a heart warming and stirring read.
The third episode (The Library of Souls) loses some pace for the first quarter of the book, with the action simply revolving around a few central characters and a little too much time spent on the teenage romance angle. Don’t give up though, as the tale eventually takes on another angle and the resulting twists are extremely exhilarating. With an epic and beautifully written final battle sequence and a fairytale ending, Riggs has cleverly left the door open to other peculiar tales, but also given the series enough of a conclusion to leave readers feeling replete in the knowledge that the climate has been left in relative stability within Peculiardom.
For fans of fantasy and escapism, these novels are a fast paced and thrilling read and with the added themes of social acceptance and integration, become a moving and deeply affecting set of stories.