Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is the second novel in the tale of Ms. Peregrine’s time traveling troupe of peculiarly gifted children.
Here are a couple of terms and notes that I found to be rather useful in making sense of this rather odd tale while reading:
Ymbryne: female keepers of the loops and caretakers of peculiar children.
Wights: bad guys with no pupils who feed peculiar children to the hollows.
Hollows: invisible tentacled monsters who devour peculiar children… and anything else that allows itself to be eaten, really.
Loop: a place hidden within a time warp that repeats the same day over and over again.
Also, it helps to keep track of the children and their peculiar abilities:
Jacob: he can see and sense hollows.
Emma: she can create fire from her hands without getting burned.
Hugh: he can communicate with bees, and keeps them safe inside his stomach.
Claire: she has two mouths…
Olive: she floats; needs special weighted shoes to keep her on the ground.
Bronwyn: she is incredibly strong.
Horace: he is able to dream of the future (as in bad omens and such).
Millard: he’s invisible.
Enoch: he can bring inanimate objects (and in some cases, dead people) back to life.
Fiona: she grows things… very quickly.
Hollow City picks up right where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children leaves off: on a couple of precarious boats crossing from the island of Cairnholm to the mainland of Wales. The survivors — Jacob, Emma, Hugh, Claire, Olive, Bronwyn, Horace, Millard, Enoch, and Fiona… oh, and the bird — of the wights’ and hollows’ vicious attack on their loop, set out to find another ymbryne who can help get Ms. Peregrine back into her human form. The children miraculously make it through a storm and onto the mainland, only to be are chased by wights. As they run through the forest and read peculiar fairytales (because how else are they to keep calm at this chaotic time?!), they discover that the hollows have found a way to enter loops — they couldn’t do that before… that’s why loops are supposed to be a form of safe haven for peculiars. But now that wights and hollows have captured the ymbrynes, discovered how to get into these hidden loops, and have a master plan for world domination, how are a bunch of kids and a bird to survive?
…and then things get weird.
They meet some strange animals within Ms. Wren’s loop. It’s a menagerie with an emu-raffe, a talking dog, a odd monkey-man, and chickens who lay exploding eggs (among other creatures). They’re equipped with all kinds of items and head off for 1940s London. But not before meeting some gypsies — contact with the peculiar children does not bode well for the gypsies once they are questioned by the wights. So basically, it’s bad upon bad — then they meet some new peculiars — more bad things happen — and then they meet some carny folk — and then it gets worse… but through a streak of sheer luck and happenstance, they make it to a frozen building where they realize that things are even worse than they imagine in a world-wide scale across time. I hope I’m painting an appropriately grim picture without giving anything away…
“Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares are the very same time.”
The story just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser — but you keep reading because you simply need to know what oddity will happen next. However, as with any good story, there are emotions, true bonds, and thought-provoking questions at its core. These children have been through so much; most of them have been abused, abandoned, and mistreated for being freaks of nature. It’s no wonder they would go through hell and back for Ms. Peregrine, risking their lives in the process. Yet, for Jacob it’s a different driving force altogether — he sought out Ms. Peregrine to learn about his grandfather, but leaving a loving family and life behind is much more than he could possibly owe any one of his companions. He goes along with them because of his sense of duty, feelings of camaraderie, and love for Emma.
From the very beginning of the story, the children have a mission: to save Ms. Peregrine. But as the story goes on, as they being to realize that there’s a bigger problem, one must wonder: what happens next? Whether they can save Ms. Peregrine or not, the truth of the matter is that the ymbrynes have been captured, peculiars are being hunted, everyone’s courage is being tested — so, who’s going to help? Who takes a stand to protect those being persecuted? Who’s going to save the peculiar world? It’s particularly poignant that a large part of this take takes place during World War II. Considering the chaos of the world at this point in history, and how so many people were senselessly killed because they were… different, we can see how Ransom Riggs develops the idea that someone needs to step up. But saving the world is too much for such a rag-tag group of misfits to take on — which begs the question: if not them, then who? It’s a difficult decision, but one that must be made. And considering that Jacob is the only one who can see and sense the hollows, how far will he go for his new friends? How much can he sacrifice for them?
The events at the end of Hollow City are… exciting, to say the least. It is clear that there is so much more to this story — the mythology of peculiars is just getting started, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.
“At the heart of nature’s mystery lies another mystery.”
… this is one mystery I look forward to reading more about.