Library of Souls is the final book in Ransom Riggs's gothic thriller trilogy, the Peculiar Children series. It's complicated, spine-tingling, violent, with a dash of heartbreaking romance. It starts in cliffhanger style, following up from where Hollow City left off (click here for the review); the children are in grave peril and nearly done in. (click here for a review of “Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children”)
The main characters in this book are Jacob, who has just started to learn how his power to control the invisible, terrifying creatures called hollowgasts works; Emma, a peculiar with the power to create fire with her hands; and Addison, the loquacious talking dog introduced in the prior book.
The story follows their struggles and adventures to find the missing peculiar children and their headmistress, Miss Peregrine, as well as all the ymbrynes, the guardians of the children, who are the shape-shifting matriarchs of peculiardom who can take on different bird shapes, all of whom were abducted in book two.
The group meet up with an extremely peculiar individual named Sharon who, for a fee, will take them in his boat to another time loop, to get back on the track of their friends. Sharon is dressed in a black cloak that covers his face from view. He makes our characters feel very uncomfortable and unsure if his help is what they really need.
They decide they have no choice but to accept it, which leads them into a hellish world full of lowlifes, panderers and drug dealers, who have half the inhabitants of Devil's Acre addicted to Ambrosia, aka Ambro; a drug made out of the distilled souls of peculiars, it endows the user with a taste of that peculiar's power.
After much trial and error, pain and possible hope, our characters locate the fortress of the enemy, where Caul and his army of wights (a hollowgast that consumes enough peculiar souls becomes a wight), are holding the peculiar children and their ymbrynes hostage, performing heinous tortures to some and using others to try to find the legendary Library of Souls, which houses the souls of noteworthy past peculiars and power too immense to be unleashed without calamitous consequences.
Jacob and Emma end up in the home of a man named Bentham, who claims he wants to help but is hiding a few secrets, leaving our heroes to wonder if trusting him is a good idea. It’s up to Jacob and Emma to rescue the peculiars and prevent the villainous Caul from reaching the Library of Souls, stealing the most powerful ones and destroying the world.
In the midst of all this, Jacob is struggling with himself, not understanding how his power is going to be able to help his friends or save them all, but Emma is ever confident that he can do it and that they will be triumphant over all. That leaves her feeling bittersweet; if they do succeed, then Jacob will be free to go back to his own time with his family, leaving her like his grandfather did, all those many years ago.
I found this book engaging and adventurous and, like the other two books, the black and white vintage photos that are scattered throughout were integral to the story, so I always recommend picking up the hardback, since the pictures show up best in that version.
The only issue I had with this one, knowing it was the final book in the series, is that I thought the ending was a little too contrived and neatly wrapped up. Otherwise, the overall book and series are well worth the read, especially for the young adult readers, whom they are mainly aimed at. ~~ Dee Astell