Friday, December 23, 2016
'Library of Souls' by Ransom Riggs
A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.
The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.
They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
This was a hugely satisfying end to my favourite trilogy of the year.
In their quest to find and rescue their friends, Jacob and Emma end up in Devil's Acre, a notorious peculiar loop full of undesirables. There are crooks, desperadoes, down-and-out peculiars willing to prostitute their special abilities, and hopeless addicts looking for their next fix of ambrosia. This substance enhances their already peculiar powers, but not only is it short lived, but weakens you with each dose so eventually you need it just to function.
Their main goal is to storm the tower fortress which they know is the wights' headquarters. Jacob has to tap into his burgeoning peculiar skills to even stand a chance, although his old ways of thinking keep trying to drag him down. While Emma calls her brain a 'hope making engine', Jacob considers his a 'worst case scenario generator.'
Their quest is fueled by rumours about the existence of a certain library, which was formerly dismissed as legend. And of course, they have to stop Miss Peregrine's unscrupulous brother Caul in his attempt to take over the world as they know it.
At first I was disappointed that most of the peculiar children weren't in the story for a sizable chunk. Tracking them all down certainly added vital motivation for Jacob and Emma, but at the expense of missing Millard's droll wisdom, Horace and Enoch's cynical banter and Bronwyn's kind heart. But the unpredictable twists and turns of the plot won me over, and it turned out to be another five star read. (And of course, we trust that they'll discover them eventually.)
I really enjoy Ransom Riggs' style of humour. It's dark and quirky, but with hope and goodness always present. He never gives readers a chance to say, 'This is getting too weird now,' since the story was already so strange to start with. Even the far-fetched moments become a real strength in the hands of a good writer. For example, if somebody says, 'The setting comes across like stage props,' I'd reply, 'Well, that was clearly his intention.' Riggs delves into cornier depths than other authors may dare to tread, but it works fantastic for him.
Caul is a wonderful villain. He ticks all the boxes of what makes a baddie tick. Unbridled ambition, an unquenchable thirst for veneration, and a craving to be remembered forevermore. He's suitably menacing, but with moments of black humour I appreciate. He has a taste for high ceremony. He'll interrupt the tension to thrust himself into the spotlight with speeches he hopes will be immortalised. Of course we all hope he'll get what's coming to him, yet at the same time, I can't help saying, 'What a legend,' from a literary point of view.
Riggs' way with words is excellent and to the point, including how the essence of each character can be summed up in a quote from them. I'll finish with a few of those.
Emma: Doubt is the pinprick in the lifeboat.
Miss Peregrine: Everything you need is inside you already.
Jacob: Right now, I'm practically quaking, my stomach a leaking faucet dripping acid all over my insides.
Caul: Why am I wasting my breath? You Philistines will never appreciate the gravity of my achievement. Like donkeys contemplating the Sistine Chapel.
It ends on a high note, but I want more peculiar children!
My review of #1, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, is here.
My review of #2, Hollow City, is here.