By Marty Mulrooney
Tales of the Peculiar is a collection of illustrated ‘peculiar’ fairy tales by #1 New York Times bestselling author Ransom Riggs, published in the UK by Penguin Books on the 6th September 2016. Set within the same universe as his popular Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy of books, Tales of the Peculiar is presented as being written by former Miss Peregrine ward Millard Nullings, an invisible boy who is also an accomplished philologist and renowned scholar. From wealthy cannibals to a lonely giant called Cuthbert, each story is part fairy tale, part history, and part moral lesson.
So please enjoy these Tales – before a crackling fire on a chilly night, ideally, a snoring grimbear at your feet – but remember, too, their sensitive nature, and if you must read them aloud (which I highly recommend) make certain your audience is peculiar.
Introduction – Millard Nullings
Tales of the Peculiar features ten short stories that read like traditional fairy tales, but with highly peculiar twists. The first story sets the tone: a travelling group of wealthy cannibals are exhausted and starving when they comes across the remote village of Swampmuck. They soon discover that the farmers living there can regrow lost limbs! They strike up a deal that is mutually beneficial for both parties, but it isn’t long before the arrangement begins to spiral dangerously out of control…
It’s a story both macabre and humorous in equal measure, eloquently written with an immensely satisfying punch line. The remaining tales follow suit and there isn’t a dud to be found among them. Whether you’re reading about the trials and tribulations of a fork-tongued princess looking for love, or the struggles of a girl who can literally tame nightmares by pulling them like thread from people’s ears, you’ll always be eager to read just one more page.
In fact, that’s the only real complaint to be made about this charming collection of tales… there simply aren’t enough of them! Yet it’s a small price to pay when each story is so perfectly crafted in its own right. Mr Nullings’ recommendation to read each story aloud is perfectly valid, as I’m sure children will be delighted to have these stories read to them by their parents before bedtime. They can be somewhat scary at times, but the combination of dark humour, quirky situations and memorable characters always manages to keep the balance just right.
At first, it’s somewhat disappointing that the authentic, vintage found photographs that quickly became synonymous with the original Miss Peregrine trilogy aren’t used again here. However, the beautiful black-and-white illustrations by Andrew Davidson more than make up for their absence. Incredibly detailed and evocative, they give each story and the book itself an authentic ‘fairy tale’ vibe that is utterly timeless and truly delightful. Penguin Books should also be applauded for making the overall design and materials used feel so lavish. This feels like the kind of book – sadly, a rare example in today’s mass market – that will be cherished for many years to come, before being passed down to the next generation.
With the film version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children recently hitting the big screen (directed by Tim Burton, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Green), there has never been a better time to discover the storytelling talents of Ransom Riggs. The biggest compliment that can be paid to these stories is that they will still work – and will be just as enjoyable – for readers who haven’t read any of the previous Miss Peregrine books. A truly peculiar collection of short stories that will delight and entertain from beginning to end, this charming book comes highly recommended.
9 OUT OF 10