By Ransom Riggs
I’d seen this book a couple of times in bookstores and been hooked in by the eye-catching cover and title, but hadn’t gotten around to even looking it up at the library. But, last week a coworker and friend brought it in to work, having just finished it, and she happily leant it to me, saying it was a quick read.
It was a quick read, and one that I enjoyed very much, but I’m also finding it kind of difficult to describe here. If you pick up the book at a store or library, you’ll first notice the cover, and then, flipping through, see that there are odd, vintage photographs reproduced throughout the book.
At first I thought the photos were simultaneously something unique but also a bit of a gimmick, and they continued to cause a bit of a dilemma for me as a reader. On the one hand, they were extremely interesting illustrations to the story; at the same time, pondering these real-world artifacts took me out of the narrative a bit each time. So, I’m torn over whether I think they added or subtracted from the overall book.
So, photos aside, the plot felt like it took themes that I love from a variety of young adult and fantasy books – special abilities, time travel, WWII child evacuees (a favorite theme of my childhood since seeing “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”)– and combined them into something pretty original and very entertaining.
The strongest element of the book for me was the characters. Just about every single character is multi-dimensional, mostly sympathetic but with realistic flaws. Even side characters that only got a couple of pages caught my attention, and I wanted to read more about them, as well.
It doesn’t hurt, also, that the beginning of the story takes place in Florida, which is always portrayed in books as being full of fun craziness, but then the majority of the book takes place in Wales, which is the most beautiful place I have ever been, bar none.
Though the book wraps up the immediate storyline, it seems fairly clear that the author is intending to write more with these characters and this world, and I am very much looking forward to reading them. (Author confirms that he has started work on the sequel.)