By Marty Mulrooney
A Map of Days is the fourth novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. It follows an original trilogy of critically acclaimed books – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City and Library of Souls – and Tales of the Peculiar, which AMO’s review described as “a truly peculiar collection of short stories that will delight and entertain from beginning to end.” Picking up directly where Library of Souls left off, this new story once again follows Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends – only this time, they’re exploring the peculiar side of America…
A Map of Days opens moments before the cliffhanger ending of the previous book in the series, with Jacob Portman pinned between his beefy uncles in the backseat of his parent’s car, about to be driven to the mental asylum. Thankfully, the car’s exit from the garage is blocked by a timely Miss Peregrine and her wards, who proceed to place Jacob’s family into a deep, harmless sleep.
After three books with Jacob’s parents remaining relatively clueless about his peculiar life, it’s refreshing for this new adventure to begin with Jacob trying to tackle the problem head on. The fact that it doesn’t work at all – his mother becomes hysterical, while his father becomes incredibly angry – sets the tone for a decidedly darker tale than what has come before. The magic of peculiardom is starting to wear off and reality must be faced; Jacob can’t split himself between these two worlds forever.
A few seconds passed. She sat down on the dock beside me.
“What I was your age,” she said, “I tried something similar with my parents.”
“Miss Peregrine, I don’t really feel like talking right now.”
Sometimes Miss Peregrine couldn’t be argued with.
Jacob’s father rejecting the truth – rejecting him – changes something deep inside him. The loop collapse in Devil’s Acre has reset the internal clocks of the peculiar children. As a result, they no longer risk aging forward catastrophically if they remain in the present; instead, they will age a day at a time, just like ordinary people. However, despite their newfound fame, Jacob and his friends find themselves being given mundane tasks by the Ymbryne Council.
So, when Jacob discovers a hidden shelter below his grandfather’s house and learns that he used to risk his life saving peculiar children as a hollow hunter, the decision of what to do next becomes a no-brainer. Reaching out to a mysterious old contact of his grandfather’s – codename H – Jacob and a few of his friends embark on a road trip across America to make a real difference before Miss Peregrine can stop them. However, following in his grandfather’s footsteps will have unforeseen consequences…
“If you want me to leave, just say it,” she said. “I’ll go back to the Acre. There’s plenty for me to do there.”
I shook my head. “No. I just don’t want us to lie to each other. About what we are, or what we’re doing.”
“Okay.” She crossed her arms tightly across her chest. “Then what are we?”
My body went cold as I said it. But it felt true and right.
A Map of Days contains some of the best vintage photography featured in the series to date, alongside a variety of vintage clues – including a family restaurant map of Florida, postcards, a greasy napkin and a matchbook from a Chinese restaurant – that serve to further the plot in a variety of exciting and often unexpected ways. As always, Ransom Riggs manages to make every image tie into a narrative that feels completely natural despite its peculiarities.
The story is intriguing – and the various new peculiars Jacob and his friends meet throughout their road trip across America are as delightful as always – but it’s Jacob’s conflicted state of mind and his decision to rebel against the peculiar establishment that make A Map of Days so enjoyable to read. As the start of a new trilogy, this fourth novel feels slightly more grown up and it will certainly be interesting to see where the story goes in the recently announced fifth novel.
I was underprepared and overconfident. I couldn’t blame Miss Peregrine for that. So I couldn’t even be mad at her really, or at my friends. The more I mulled it over, the more my anger homed in on someone else. A person who hadn’t even been present. A person who wasn’t even alive: my grandfather. He had known, my whole life, who I was. He had known, as a peculiar, what I would have to face one day. But he had not prepared me for it at all.
A Map of Days proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ransom Riggs has plenty of worthwhile peculiar stories left in him to tell. The inspired decision to switch from the original trilogy’s setting of Cairnholm, Wales to Uncle Sam makes sound narrative sense – after all, Jacob is a Floridian – even if it has cost the series some of its trademark British flavour. Still, if you’re going to write a brand new trilogy of books about peculiar people doing peculiar things, what better place to set them than the United States of America?
9 OUT OF 10