Science fiction and fantasy
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
The text is illustrated with a series of old photographs, often a little fuzzy or dark but featuring quite a few freaks. This might give the impression of a quaint or even childish book, but it isn't really. Jacob is a modern young man, though a bit of a slacker, and the story has its share of teenage language and violent surprises. I think the levitating girl on the cover and the book trailer make this novel seem like it's for a slightly younger audience than it actually is.
I enjoyed the way the Peculiars' world works in some of the traditional legends of fairyland, whilst offering a whole new explanation for these stories. The plot gets more and more complex as Jacob unearths new mysteries every time he finds something out about his grandfather's past. The people he meets are believably abrasive and emotional, even though some of them are extraordinary.
Ultimately the main character has an agonising choice to make: should he turn his back on the new and Peculiar friends he's made and return to his normal life, or leave his family and everyone he's ever known to join them, even though their curiously old-fashioned idyll has a dark side. And the monsters that his grandpa Portman was so afraid of are always there in the background, hoping to hunt them all down.
This is an unusual story, with none of the hackneyed concepts that so often clog up the pages of young adult fantasy. The old photographs have a certain poignancy, even though some of them are quite crudely manipulated. They're put together to tell an original tale with a sweet sub-plot about thwarted love. It's funny in places as well, such as when Jacob is put in his place by cheeky friends or pestered by wannabe rappers. Jacob himself starts off unsure of his place in the world and rather directionless, more of a drifter than a fighter, but he's not so spineless as to lose our sympathy whilst he makes this journey of self-discovery. Yet the overall tone is tense and dark, like the echo of musty, abandoned places and mysteries of the past best kept hidden. It's an authentically creepy book.
10th October 2011
If you like this, try:Johannes Cabal The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
An acerbic, over-educated necromancer tries to win back his soul in this occult comedy.
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