Title: Hollow City
Series: PECULIAR CHILDREN
Plot Type: Fantasy with a touch of horror
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—2; Humor—3
Publisher: Quirk Books (1/2014) (available in hardback, CD, MP3, and e-book formats)
Click HERE to read my overview of the world-building and my review of the first book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Click HERE to go to the Peculiar Children Wiki, which contains in-depth information about the setting and the characters. I don't recommend reading Hollow City as a stand-alone because it doesn't contain very much basic information about the series mythology. Also, you need to read the first book in order to understand how and why the peculiar children appear—in the opening scene—in two rowboats off the coast of Wales in the midst of World War II.
Here is a list of the children and their peculiar abilities:
The reason for this misuse of characters, I believe, is that in this book Riggs' story-telling is led by the weird photographs, whereas the plot of the first book is enhanced by the photos. Rather than supporting the narrative, many photographs (and their accompanying mini-story lines) actually detract from the main plot. This is particularly true of the bizarre animal photographs in chapters 3 and 4, where Riggs appears to have manipulated the story line solely for the purpose of including some particularly weird animal photographs. In chapter 8, Riggs includes a number of vintage photographs purportedly showing scenes of the London Blitz. These particular images are mentioned very briefly in passing, but have nothing to do with the story line. Even the photograph on the book's cover has only a tenuous connection to the plot. The hole-in-the-stomach girl is in just one scene before she and her sister turn their backs on the peculiar group. This awkward and manipulative use of photographs is one reason why Hollow City doesn't have either the coherence or the strange magical resonance of the first book.
Another problem is that the peculiar children have suddenly turned into superheroes who go for three days and nights with hardly any sleep and with very little food, yet are able to out-fight and out-think their enemies with no serious injuries and without losing any members from their original group. In the first book, the peculiars suffered at the hands of the wights and hallows, but in this book the children are almost Scooby-Doo-ish as they lurch from one dangerous situation to the next, always winning the day in some unexpected and frequently outlandish manner. Each confrontation with their enemies plays out like a Roadrunner vs. Wile E. Coyote parody. After awhile, you come to realize that, like the Roadrunner, the children will easily beat their enemies into complete submission—time after time.
Even though the first book is the stronger of the two, Hollow City is still an above-average read. Riggs is an eloquent writer with the ability to fully develop his characters (particularly Jacob) through their actions, dialogue, and relationships. Jacob is a terrific narrator, internally facing down his doubts and fears while maintaining a calm facade as he plunges ahead into this dark, often hopeless, world to which he has pledged his loyalty and support. Although he dreams of his real home and family, he also has strong emotional ties to his peculiar family—particularly to Emma. Here, Jacob sums up the situation as the children search for Miss Wren in London: "So it had come to this: everything depended on a pigeon. Whether we would end the night in the womblike safety of an ymbryne's care or half chewed in the churning black of a hollow's guts; whether Miss Peregrine would be saved or we'd wander lost through this hellscape until her clock ran out; whether I would live to see my home or my parents again—it all depended on one scrawny, peculiar penguin."
One of the most clever plot elements is the choice of location for the London time loop. I won't go into detail, except to point out that the children are searching for Miss Wren, and that there was a certain man with the same surname who had a major influence on London architecture.
The plot twist at the end is completely unexpected, and it adds a cliff-hanger ending to this second episode in the series. If you're looking for a stand-alone, this isn't the book for you. You need to read the first book for background on the world-building, and you'll need to read the third book for closure. (As I understand it, Riggs plans for this series to be a trilogy.)