|If the cover image alone doesn't make you instantly want to read this book,|
then there's something wrong with you :)
So it is with "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" which at first glance may look like 'just another ghost novel' but is absolutely anything but.
16 year old Jacob enjoys a close relationship with his Grandfather, who always weaves amazing fantastic tales of his life and the things he got up to before he settled down. Producing a box of strange photos to back up his claims, Grandpa tells Jacob all about an orphanage he grew up in, and the 'peculiar' children there.
Jacob, being a typical teenager, always takes Grandpa's stories with a pinch of salt but when Grandpa phones in the middle of the night with a note of urgency and terror in his voice, Jacob rushes to the scene - to find Grandpa dead in the forest. Not merely dead, but clawed, attacked, ravaged by something. Something that Jacob sees fleeing from the scene out of the corner of his eye. Something wholly terrible and unnatural.
The incident has such a profound effect on Jacob that he searches out Grandpa's photo box to look at the pictures again, finding more than he bargained for...
On the advice of his therapist, Jacob petitions his parents to let him visit the island which his Grandfather spoke of, to seek out the orphanage and the mysterious Miss Peregrine - who featured in several letters also in his grandfather's possession.
What is actually going on in the photos? Did the stories that Jacobs grandfather told him have an air of truth about them?
After much cajoling, Jacob gets his wish and he sets out with his birdwatcher father to make a vacation out of the trip.
Ransom Riggs creates an other-worldiness in this novel that is boosted by the photos - included as counterpoints to the story throughout the book. Many may argue that books of this ilk do not need illustrations but in this particular case, I think they work beautifully and add bucketloads of atmosphere and spine-chilling surreality, to put flesh on the bones of the characters within.
Without spoiling too much of the novel, I came in with the expectation that this might be a spooky story, but left wanting - nay craving the next book in the series (The Hollow City - which is published next January - a very long time to wait, ack!)
Jacob's journey of discovery - not just about the truth behind his grandfather's stories but his own self discovery too, is a nail-biting and fascinating read.
It's a book that effortlessly paints each scene (with or without the aid of the aforementioned photos) so strongly in the mind that you can almost hear the whirr of diesel generators feeding the island's makeshift electricty supply, and later on almost feel the flecks of blood spattering across your cheek as things take a seriously dark turn as this first book in an eventual trilogy draws to a close.
I seriously cannot wait to read more. If this doesn't end up as a Tim Burton film I'll eat my hat (in fact I'm not really sure I would want Mr Burton to touch this particular book, I really can't see how Johnny Depp could play a 16 year old!)
(Kindly sent to DaddyAfterDark for review by Mat @ PGUK / Quirk Books)