I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to Ransom Riggs’ Peculiar Children series. I’ve been meaning to pick up the books for some time, but just never got around to it. But when news came out that Tim Burton was making a film adaptation of the books, I decided it was time I got around to it!
I think I can safely say that one of the most intriguing things about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the cover. That picture of the unsmiling little girl in the middle of the woods, seemingly floating above the ground? How could you not buy the book just for that? Right away, I anticipated a scary story and I wasn’t too wrong when it came to the first several chapters. Strange monsters lurking in the woods and creepy blind gardeners in suburbia? And of course I chose to read this late at night in a darkened bedroom with only my Kindle light for company. (And my snoozing partner in bed next to me, but somehow I don’t think he’d be too pleased if I woke him up because I heard creaking noises down the hall. He just doesn’t appreciate that I’m looking out for his safety too).
And that picture of the unsmiling little girl on the front cover? That’s just the first of the creepy pictures scattered throughout the book! In fact, they’re scattered through all three of the Peculiar Children books, and as it turns out, they’re all part of a collection of real, authentic vintage photos that Riggs owns. I love how he’s built the entire Peculiar Children stories around these photos, which adds another dimension to the books.
Now, I mention that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children starts off as a scary story (especially if you’re a big fraidy cat like me whose imagination runs too wild for her own good), but midway through the first book and throughout the rest of the series, it becomes more of a good old-fashioned British fantasy story. Slight spoiler alert, but not really if you’ve already seen the movie trailer – the first book starts off in modern-day North America, but soon switches to Britain circa WWII via a ‘time loop’ where most of the ‘peculiars’ live. From there on, the story shifts and it becomes more of a children’s fantasy story with shades of Narnia, Inkheart and Water Horse.
I really enjoyed reading the Peculiar Children series. The first one was definitely a page-turner for me and though there were a few laggy bits in the beginning of the second book, things quickly picked up and I pretty much raced to the end of the third book. There were a few things that I found a little off, though – for example, it took me a while to figure out what age some of the characters were because sometimes they acted like children and sometimes like young adults (Emma is probably the prime example of this). I get that there might be contributing factors such as the effects of the time loop magic and the fact that they were born in a different era where kids stay kids for longer; still, I found it a bit jarring.
Also, Miss Peregrine. Everyone likes Miss Peregrine. She’s a saint, this Miss Peregrine. But, to be honest, (spoiler alert!!) I didn’t think much of the way she treated her brother, Myron, toward the end. Granted, Myron’s a bit of a dimwit who unwittingly contributed to the major catastrophe of Peculiardom, but still I thought exiling him to Devil’s Acre was a bit harsh when he didn’t intend any of it (probably the biggest no-no about Myron was his deliberate trickery of Jacob’s grandfather, but that didn’t happen till later when he was confined to Devil’s Acre). Not to mention Miss Peregrine telling him to piss off at the end of Book Three after he had done his best to save her and other Peculiars. That was rather rough, I thought. Hasn’t she heard of forgive and forget? After all, the guy was trying to make amends. Also, the Peculiars all hold the Ymbrynes in high regard, but tell the truth, most of these Ymbrynes seem really scatty. Particularly Miss Wren who, I think, proved herself a terrible battle strategist in Book Two. She had control of the Peculiar Archives, Althea’s amazing ice powers to aid her and she had Caul as a potential hostage. Yet she lost it all! She was a terrible negotiator and I hold her completely responsible for letting the Archives fall into the wights’ grip. (Spoiler alert over!)
In spite of my gripes, I really enjoyed the Peculiar series. It’s a good old-fashioned adventure story of the best kind, but also an original tale in its own right with some terrific world-building elements. It’s got lots of loveable characters (Bronwyn and Millard are my faves!), a great cast of well-developed characters, and some villains you’d love to hate. Oh, and some really sweet, heartrending moments too. Riggs definitely doesn’t go easy on some of his characters. All in all, Ransom Riggs does a great job of drawing readers into his world of Peculiardom and making you wish you were really there. I’m already looking forward to reading his next book, Tales of the Peculiar.