Having already read the first book in this series with my grandchild, I decided to read the second one so we could discuss it as well. This one is also an adventure story, a story about right and wrong, good and evil, but it develops further into a sweet romance, as well. Contained within the pages are graphic depictions of violence and death. Like the fairy tales of old, it teaches children and young adults how to cope with and outwit their fears through their imaginations, how to solve difficult moral and ethical problems with thoughtfulness that is coupled with intuition, and how to face their future with hope and courage. It teaches them about evil and injustice but also about goodness and honor.
The Peculiars are in grave danger when their Cairn Island home is destroyed. Their loop is closed, and they are no longer safe. They set out in search of another loop before they are all sealed shut. If they can’t find one, time will continue on for them, and they will age and grow old, some faster than others, depending on how long they have been alive. Time will catch up with them. Unfortunately, the Wights capture Miss Peregrine (her brother is their leader), and first the children have to find and rescue her. They cannot abandon her; she has done so much for all of them. Jacob wants to fulfill his grandfather’s last wish and he decides to stay and help. Also, he is becoming more and more attached to Emma, as his grandfather was, as well.
These Peculiars are very ingenious. Although they have not aged and have been reliving the same day, over and over again, they cannot really be considered simple “children”. They are more complicated than that. When they manage to rescue Miss Peregrine, who is a shape-shifter, they discover that she cannot change back into a human form, from her bird form, because she was poisoned. In addition, her wing was injured. The children set out to find another Ymbryne to cure her, for only an Ymbryne can return her to her human form. If they don’t change her soon, she will be doomed to remain a bird forever, losing all human instincts. They discover that all the Ymbrynes have been kidnapped by the Wights, all but one, Miss Wren, so they all go to London to try and find her.
Millard, a Peculiar, studies the book of tales about Peculiars, and he discovers that they provide clues to help them find the captured Ymbrynes, Miss Wren and a cure for Miss Peregrine. However, the task is difficult. The Peculiars find themselves in 1940, in Hitler’s world. Bombs are falling on London; there is destruction everywhere. The Wights are ruthless, the Hollowgasts are running rampant. They are killing all who get in their way, and they are still trying to capture the Peculiars, seeking their secret of staying young and alive. Their plight can only be described as frightful. The Hollows can become Wights, only by eating a Peculiar.
This adventure is many sided. The Peculiars are faced with the horrors of war, the cruelty of the enemy, the danger of bombs, the fear of death, the morality and ethics of certain decisions that have to be made for the sake of expedience, the mystery of odd animals with different qualities than any they have seen before like those in the Menagerie. One animal is a mixture of a donkey and a giraffe, there is a man/dog named Addison, a man thing called Grunt, there are Armageddon chickens; these were not ignorant animals, by any means. There is a lesson to be learned here; don’t judge a book by its cover.
In their travels, the children unexpectedly find other Peculiars with different skills. They find them in places like carnivals, gypsy camps, tunnels, and bombed out buildings. Their adventures move in so many different directions, the reader will be kept guessing, making this second book just as exciting as the first. As their search continues, and the dangers they face increase, each Peculiar discovers a hidden reserve of courage he/she didn’t realize they possessed. Each Peculiar has its own “peculiar” skill. One can send fire from her fingers, one can make ice, one can sense Hollows, one can interpret the future, one is a haven for bees, one can float, one can fold himself up, one has superhuman strength, one is invisible, one has kinetic powers and there are blind twins whose minds work together, and they refuse to be separated, and there are chickens that lay unusual eggs, etc. Traveling with them through time zones and tourist loops, the reader will find a new surprise offered by the author every few pages. Just when you think you feel silly, engaged with the characters as they follow a parrot hoping it will lead them to Miss Wren, you are reengaged by the charm of another “peculiar”, by the innocence exhibited and the kindness shared.
The book has many insights to teach on a moral and ethical level. Judging someone by their outside appearance can be foolhardy, making decisions without careful thought can lead to failure, sometimes there are things that are bigger than yourself, and sometimes you have to sacrifice for a cause, throwing caution to the wind after you consider the consequences. Just because people are related, it doesn’t mean they are the same or have the same values, just look at Miss Peregrine and her brother. There is death and devastation, terror and fear everywhere. They must make difficult decisions; they must decide if saving one person is worth the sacrifice of others. This scenario has just played out in the USA, with the release of Pvt. Bow Bergdahl in exchange for five terrorist masterminds. People are unsure if this exchange was fair or warranted.
The story is so imaginative that although it seems far-fetched at times, fans of the first book will surely love this second one and will eagerly await the next and the next and the next; this looks like a successful serialized novel! I feel sure there will be another book to continue the saga of these Peculiars and the love story developing between Emma and Jacob.
Although this novel can probably stand alone, I wouldn’t recommend it that way. I had to look back to my review of the first book, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, in order to refresh my memory, and without it, I don’t think I would have either remembered or understood the plot as well. It can get complicated as it twists and turns in different directions. One drawback of the audio version of the book is the lack of interesting pictures that are included in the hard copy. However, on the positive side, the characters truly come alive in your mind with this excellent reader. The accents are authentic whether Scottish, British, Russian, or American. When a character speaks he/she is recognizable so the thread of the narrative is never broken and the reader is always engaged.