Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs is the third (and possibly final) novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. It follows 2011’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which Alternative Magazine Online described as “an utterly compelling and truly unforgettable book” and 2014’s Hollow City, which proved to be “a more than worthy follow-up.” Picking up right where the previous book’s cliffhanger ending left off, Library of Souls begins with Jacob and Emma barely alive, their friends kidnapped by the evil weights and Miss Peregrine still in mortal danger… can Jacob’s newly discovered powers be harnessed in time to save them?
The monster stood not a tongue’s length away, eyes fixed on our throats, shriveled brain crowded with fantasies of murder. Its hunger for us charged the air.
Library of Souls is a fast-paced adventure from the outset, much like its predecessor. Trapped in the modern-day London Underground and faced with a terrifying hollowgast, Jacob finally discovers his true peculiar power. He can’t just see the hollow – he can talk to it. He can command it… barely. Where this third novel differs from the books that came before it is that the odds are now even less in Jacob’s favour. It’s just him, Emma… and a talking dog called Addison.
The omission of the rest of his peculiar friends is a wise one, even though they’re missed as much by the reader as by Jacob and Emma. The dire situation allows both characters to strengthen their relationship both believably and beautifully as events unfold, while undertaking a plan that is roughly 90% improvisation and will surely get them both killed. Addison proves to be a resourceful ally, with his loyal yet uppity personality providing plenty of light comic relief.
Emma squealed, Addison yelped, and I nearly leapt out of my skin. A man who’d been sitting in the boat – how had we not seen him until now?! – rose slowly to his feet, straightening himself inch by inch until he towered over us. He was seven feet tall at least, his massive frame draped in a cloak and his face hidden beneath a dark hood.
Soon, they are joined by the Grim Reaper-esque boatman Sharon, whose boat tour they need to travel into a time loop known as Devil’s Acre – a wretched, Victorian-era slum populated by murderers, thieves, and the peculiar criminals who live there in exile. It’s the series’ best location yet, mixing historical fact with fantastical (and decidedly peculiar) fiction to great effect. It really does feel like travelling back in time… and it feels extremely dangerous, too. It helps that Sharon is such a well written, morally murky and strangely likeable guide.
As always, to reveal anything more of the plot would be to rob Library of Souls of just some of its many delightful surprises. Once again, authentic, vintage found photographs are scattered throughout the novel – by now a staple of the series – and they add additional wonder to an already wondrous narrative. Quirk Books certainly know how to present the material too – this is a beautiful book to simply look at and hold, before even a single word is read.
He looked flamboyantly insane, like some mad doctor from gothic fiction who’d performed too many experiments on himself. And it was his evident madness, I think – and that we all knew him to be capable of true evil – that stopped us from rushing to tear him apart. A man like Caul was never as defenseless as he seemed.
Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children is another hugely enjoyable peculiar ride that readers won’t want to end, despite being the longest novel in the series yet. In fact, the only true criticism that can be mustered is that the final chapter is tied up far too soon. Jacob has been through a lot after all – it’s fascinating to think about who would actually believe him once it’s all over, and how he’d return to ‘normal’ life. If Library of Souls proves in time to be the final part of a trilogy, then so be it – the series will have ended on a high to rival Olive without her weighted metal shoes on.
9 OUT OF 10