Fittingly peculiar finale
The final book in Ransom Riggs’ trilogy leaves one wishing there were more.
DESPITE its fantastical story, the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs always had a decidedly real- world edge about it. This could perhaps be traced back to the way the author intertwines his plot with and around actual vintage photographs, creating an interesting meta narrative that seems to extend beyond the pages of the books.
Using these intriguing and often odd photographs to tell the story of “peculiars” – humans and animals with unusual abilities – who live hidden from human society, was an inspired idea.
What makes the series stand out from the glut of young adult series, though, is that rather than relying on the pictures as a gimmick, Riggs has spun a genuinely absorbing tale centred on them. ( A big screen adaptation of the series’ first book, directed by Tim Burton, is slated to be released in September.)
The third and final book, Library Of Souls, while not the strongest, provides a fitting finale for the story that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and then continued in Hollow City.
The photographs, though a little less novel the third time around, continue to be little fascinating stories in themselves, and the way Riggs seamlessly integrates them into the plot is still impressive.
And while the narrative here lacks some of the swiftness and wonder of the earlier books, Library Of Souls keeps us hooked thanks to its strong protagonist, Jacob Portman.
In the first book, we were introduced to the world of peculiars when Jacob, while seeking an explanation for his grandfather’s mysterious death, stumbles upon a home for children with special abilities run by the indomitable Miss Peregrine.
As the home comes under threat from terrifying creatures, Jacob realises that he has an important role to play in saving the children.
As we learn more about both him and his grandfather and the world of the peculiars, Jacob remains the lynchpin of the whole series – not just because he discovers his own abilities, but by being the emotional centre of the story.
One of the series’ strengths, in fact, is the realistic and sensitive way in which a teenaged boy’s inner landscape is portrayed, and watching Jacob mature as the story progresses.
Library Of Souls builds on this further, with Jacob not just coming into his own as a leader but also dealing with difficult choices and emotions. His relationship with the peculiar girl Emma, in particular, is handled extremely realistically.
Where the book falls short, though, is with its secondary characters. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the first two books was the wide array of unique characters, each of whom had essential parts to play in the narrative.
Library Of Souls, though, narrows its focus much more on Jacob and Emma; meanwhile, the push to move the story forward often doesn’t leave much space to dwell upon many of the people we’ve come to know and love from the previous two books.
Where the book does captivate, though, is in its world- building. Using time loops, where a certain date in the past is frozen and repeated over and over, as a central plot point allows Riggs to jump back and forth in history during his story.
While Hollow City used World War II as an integral part of its setting, Library Of Souls is set in Devil’s Acre, a Victorian- era London slum inspired by a real- life location of the same name and era.
The way Riggs weaves together the realities of that time with the horrors facing the peculiar world creates terrific atmosphere.
A mark of a good book is when you come to the last page and wish there were more. Even after three volumes, the last page of Library Of Souls leaves you wishing you could linger a while longer among the peculiar people and pictures of this series.
Photo: Tahereh Mafi