Friday, October 17, 2014

Hollow City—Ransom Riggs



We rowed out through the harbor, past bobbing boats weeping rust from their seams, past juries of silent seabirds, roosting atop the barnacled remains of sunken docks, past fishermen who lowered their nets to stare frozenly as we slipped by, uncertain whether we were real or imagined...(17)
I loved the first book in this series, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (review). The concept was novel and interesting, and even a bit distracting from the plot. I may have given it more leeway, content-wise, because I was enthralled with the photos.
That being said, I also greatly enjoyed this sequel. And while I did enjoy it, I definitely had more lingering questions, and paid more attention to the development of the world and characters than I did in the first book.

Which led me to the biggest question, and ultimately a huge distraction while reading, which was the trunk of Bronwyn, the "strong girl" of the Peculiar group. Maybe I was paying too much attention to it and getting bogged down in the details, but I couldn't get over it. I will come back to this particular bee in my bonnet after a brief synopsis.

In this second book, the children are trying to not only escape the big bads but also trying to get their headmistress (Miss Peregrine, also known as their ymbryne) to a fellow ymbryne who they believe is in London. Miss Peregrine is mysteriously stuck in her bird form, and it is revealed to them as they begin this journey that she may end up being irreversibly stuck that way if they don't fix her in the next five days. And the only person who might have a chance at healing her is the fellow ymbryne. As mentioned above, they are also attempting to evade the evil faction and traveling during World War II in England, which doesn't allow a lot of flexibility, travel-mode wise. Especially as children with no money.

Okay, back to Bronwyn's trunk. At the beginning of the book, the children are arriving on mainland England after having escaped from the big bads in Wales. They've lost everything they brought with them after two of their three escape boats capsized, with very few exceptions, one of them being Bronwyn's trunk. Bronwyn's peculiarity is that she is super strong. Her trunk, on page 30, is described as a "tank sized steamer trunk." Now, even given the fact that she is a "strongwoman," even if the trunk is easily liftable by her weight-wise, it cannot be easily maneuverable logistically. Because it's huge. Yet soon after this, when they discover a rock shaped like a giant's head in the middle of a lake, they discover it's a time loop and they climb the rock and enter the cave and the loop. How does Bronwyn get this giant trunk up and into the giant's "mouth"? Then they encounter an evil creature that's trying to kill them, and just barely escape up a cliff in what is essentially a rope elevator. Where does Bronwyn's trunk go then? Does she hold onto it with one hand while she's stuck in this rope net with a gaggle of other children? We know that she brings it with her, because they are on their way back down the cliff and out of the loop, and they are gifted with some eggs, and on page 112 it says she wraps the eggs in her sweater and puts them in her trunk. Then they head back down the cliff in the rope elevator, back through the giant's head cave. No mention of how they do all that with the trunk. Later in the story, they are waiting in the bushes to see what the commotion on the road is— since they are trying to hide from the bad guys, the hiding is important— and it turns out to be a gypsy caravan. They covertly jump onto the back of the last caravan in the group. It's mentioned earlier in the book that the trunk is so unwieldy that only Bronwyn can manage it. So what happened to it when they secretly jump on the back of a caravan? Does Bronwyn drag it behind them? None of the gypsies noticed that? Down the line, the gypsies discover them hitching a ride (obviously) and after some tension, end up befriending them and riding them into town on horses so the Peculiars can catch a train to London. Where does the trunk go then? How does Brownyn take her trunk on a horse? I think these holes in the tracking of her trunk are especially clear because it is definitely mentioned in certain other parts of the book, and then basically nonexistent (until it is needed) in others. To the point where it wasn't mentioned for the whole journey through the giant's head loop, until Bronwyn puts the eggs in there, and I had to go back and reconfigure that in my head, because I assumed they had left it behind when going through the loop.

I've clearly done a lot of thinking about the logistics of Bronwyn's trunk. It's been several weeks since I finished these books, and I still can't get over it. If anybody has any thoughts as to the magical nature of Bronwyn's trunk, I would love to hear them.

I surfaced many more questions in regard to the time travel aspect of the Peculiars' world as well. For instance, Millard, the invisible brainiac of the group, points out as they are emerging from one of the time loops (which only Peculiars can enter): "So sorry[...]but this just occured to me—one of us will have to pass through the loop exit before the echolocators or the girl do, or they will cross into the present and we into 1940, and we'll be separated. For them to travel to 1940 with us, one of us has to go first and open the way." (264-5) Um....what? Nothing like this re: time travel for them has ever been mentioned before. I mean, I sort of get it, I guess. But if the theory is that whoever passes through the loop first sets the stage for where you will end up in time, and one of the new kids from the "present" went through first, wouldn't the 1940 Peculiars also end up in the "present"? And how can they know that Jacob's present is THE present? The most present present, given their time travelly nature?

Even more with this book than with the first one, I felt sometimes like the images were shoehorned into the story in unnecessary ways. Sometimes it seemed like the story went down a completely weird bend in the road just to suit a particular image. The integration felt much more natural and intrinsic to the story in the first book.

Regardless of my critiques, I adored this sequel and look forward to the third book. I'm hoping it will answer some of my questions, and give me more time with now beloved characters.