Review: ‘Hollow City’ by Ransom Riggs
I can’t decide if I liked Hollow City more or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Both books are action-packed but where the first one had mostly quite a whimsical, fairytale feeling about it and was almost outside of any time, the second has a darker, more sinister edge to it and plays heavily on the uncertainty and chaos already prevalent in England in 1940. The pictures obviously continue to be one of the most distinctive features of the series but in the first book, they’re creepier and more haunting than in the second; there are still some new characters to introduce and some eery pictures that accompany these but there are also a lot of pictures that aren’t quite as quirky on the whole even though they do still hold to the vintage theme. (Incidentally, there are maybe some that I’d personally say weren’t quite suitable for younger readers (dead things, mostly…) so if you have a younger family member reading them, it might be worth vetting the pictures beforehand.)
The interview with Ransom Riggs in the back of my edition of Hollow City describes how with the first book, the pictures mostly came first but with this second book, because the story was already so well advanced, the process was often the other way round; the words leading and the pictures filling out the details so I guess that it makes sense that overall I think I prefer the second book as a story but I prefer the first one as a reading experience, if that makes sense.
One thing I’ve been impressed with in both books and really wasn’t expecting was just how good the writing is. I wasn’t expecting it to be bad but I also wasn’t expecting it to be noticeably good. It’s really easy to read and the pages absolutely fly by (helped along by the regular pictures!) but it’s also beautiful in its way. It flows wonderfully and it has some really stand out moments that I actually skipped back half a page just to read again. Something about the tone just sets off the peculiar subject matter to perfection.
“Through a bombed cemetery, long-forgotten Londoners unearthed and flung into trees, grinning in rotted formal wear. A curlicued swing set in a cratered playground. The horrors piled up, incomprehensible, the bombers now and then dropping flares to light it all with the pure, shining white of a thousand camera flashes. As if to say: Look. Look what we made“
Overall: This series has continued to surprise me, with this one throwing me completely off balance in the last few chapters. The pictures don’t feel gimmicky in the slightest; it all just works. I love how Riggs has taken some odd, discarded photos and built a world around them. Hollow City takes that world and blows it apart and I can’t wait to see whether it gets put back together again.