The Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs, the third and final book in his “Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” series, has just been released in paper back by Penguin Random House. Like the previous two books Riggs has created a beautiful combination of text and antique photographs that will not only delight readers but stretch their imaginations.
The story picks up from the cliff hanger conclusion of the second book, Hollow City, where the series’ main character Jacob Portman has just realized he can control Peculiar’s deadliest enemies, Hollowgasts, or Hollows for short. Up to this point Jacob was the only Peculiar alive who could even see these monsters who were once Peculiars and love suck the souls of their former brethren. Now he has just somehow prevented one of them from killing him and his two companions, Emma Bloom, who can create fire with her hands and Addison MacHenry, a talking dog with the ability to track lost Peculiar children and their caretakers known as ymbrynes.
The three are going to need every bit of their abilities if they are going to rescue not only their ymbryne, Miss Peregrine, and their Peculiar friends, but other ymbryne and Peculiar children as well. For Wights, Hollows who have eaten enough Peculiar souls to regain a human form, under the leadership of the diabolical Caul have kidnapped both children and their caretakers from the safe haven of their loops (short periods of time which have been frozen by ymbryne’s to safeguard their children) for some nefarious purpose.
Using Addison’s amazing abilities the three track their friends to a loop created out of the worst 19th century London England slum you can imagine. Actually Devil’s Acre is probably worse than anything you can imagine. It’s only fitting the only way to reach the loop is by a ferry boat piloted by a Peculiar named Sharon – a play on Charon, the ferryman from Greek legend responsible for transporting souls across the river Styx to the underworld realm of Hades.
Pestilential and rotting, Devil’s Acre, is filled with all kinds of different horrors. Riggs has obviously allowed himself to be influenced by The Inferno, the great Renaissance poet Dante Alighier’s masterwork describing the nine circles of Hell, in his depiction of the layout and evils to be found in this desolate place. Aided by the reluctantly conscripted Sharon the three make their way through the loop only to find their hardest task still remains, freeing their friends.
Riggs has done a remarkable job of combining action, atmosphere, and character development to ensure the story moves at a pace that will keep even the most attention deficit deprived mind interested. However, he also allows enough breathing space so characters and situations can be fully appreciated. Although the story is told in first person from Jacob’s perspective we’re still able to understand and appreciate those around him through their conversations with him.
Riggs also allows time for Emma and Jacob to try and figure out their budding romance. While filled with the typical doubts that beset any sixteen year old about becoming involved with a girl, Jacob also has to deal with fact that because she’d lived in a loop her whole life, Emma may look his age but is a hundred years old. Riggs does a fine job of giving them little moments within the action where they take a second for themselves without allowing it to become the central focus of the story.
Library of Souls is a book obviously written for a young adult audience but there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed by an adult. Its as well written and thoughtful as any so-called adult fantasy, with far less pretentious extraneous baggage. While the use of the antique photos scattered through-out the book does bring up a certain chicken and the egg query, which influenced which – the photos or the story? – they add a wonderful visual element to the story. It’s fun to compare ones own imaginings of a person or setting to the picture describing their reality.
All in all this is a fitting conclusion to a wonderful series. Read it for the simple pleasure of enjoying a gracefully imagined and elegantly executed story.