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Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

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Chuck Wendig
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Library of Souls - Ransom Riggs Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a nice surprise of a book to me. It looked different, and creative, and it more than met my expectations. I loved the idea of the book, along with the quiet magic that populated the story. It had a gentle touch, despite some violence, and I thought it succeeded quite well.

The rest of the series had a lot to live up to, and in the end, those books didn't succeed quite as well. Hollow City was all over the place, both with its characters and settings, and while Library of Souls gets a little more contained, it still doesn't quite match the wonder of that first book. There are still a lot of great ideas and imagery peppered throughout the novel -- on par with Clive Barker and China Mieville -- but the storytelling itself fell flat. Momentous events didn't feel like they had any real significance, and what moments Riggs attempted to make more resonant still felt two-dimensional. Near the start of the book, one of the characters has died, and it's told with such matter-of-factness that I expected it to be just a rumor. Instead, nothing ever comes of it, save for a couple more mentions of that character's death, all of which feel about as significant as the first mention.

I also had issues with the relationship between Emma and Jacob. There was a lot of wishy-washiness about it in the second book, but then in the third book, it becomes a definite thing. The L-word is tossed around, there are moments where neither character wants to live without the other, etc., but then at the end of the story, Jacob's all set to go back to the real world. There's angst, and brooding (for about two pages), but it seemed out of sorts between two people who supposedly felt that strongly for each other. And then there was the whole bit with Emma being over 100 years old in a sixteen-year-old body, falling for someone who was really sixteen. It's like Edward and Bella in reverse, and it's no less creepy for the gender roles being reversed.

The story itself didn't feel very organic. It seemed to go from event to event on autopilot, with little connection between one moment and the next. Characters appeared when necessary, the setting became what the story needed at a given time, and betrayals occurred without any real context or motivation. Foreshadowing felt nonexistent, and I felt more like the story was paying service to the events, rather than the other way around. I can't remember feeling this way about the other two books, but it's possible they were like that, too, and I just didn't realize it.

I think the story is a decent conclusion to the series, but it doesn't feel as significant as the first book. It's certainly an improvement over the second book (instead of getting bogged down with a lot of characters in a lot of different places, this time it's Emma and Jacob, in one setting), but for all the wonder that the first book contained, neither of the subsequent volumes could recapture it. Folks who've read the first two books will definitely want to see how it ends, though.