Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books, 2015

Overall, I’m very happy with Library of Souls, the final novel in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. It starts out at a dead run and doesn’t slow down until the end. It builds to a truly gigantic climax of staggering proportion.

It’s exciting, a surprising and worthy conclusion to the story.

It’s also laugh-out-loud funny at several points. There’s an unexpected influence of Monty Python at work in this installment and it’s very effective. It allows the ridiculous to coexist seamlessly with the horror and constant danger, which is ultimately what empowers the reader to go along for the ride.

Even more unexpected is how brutal this novel is as an indictment of drug addiction and those who profit from it.

That being said, there’s a bit too much coincidence at work in the narrative. One too many previously unmentioned aspects of Peculiardom are revealed as central plot elements and character motivations. Too many threads tie together too conveniently to be entirely believable. However, Mr. Riggs uses this convenient confluence artfully: it all raises the stakes, propels the pace, and heightens the emotional impact of events. It’s a narrative weakness that’s somehow necessary to get where he wants to go.

Unfortunately, the book largely falls apart at the end. After the big climax is over, the main characters face an incredibly difficult decision. They deal with it realistically, unflinchingly, and I felt the book was on the way to offering a truly profound and meaningful life lesson about love and sacrifice.

But Mr. Riggs feels compelled to throw one last monkey wrench into the proceedings with all the subtlety of a brick through a picture window, only to then quickly wrap everything up with a deus ex machina happy ending that completely obviates the need for the main characters to live with the consequences of their difficult decision and, thus, offers no real lessons after all.

If ever there was a novel begging for a more open-ended conclusion, Library of Souls is it. I don’t like that the author felt obligated to tack on a storybook happy ending. The story would have been far better served with an ending more nuanced.

Otherwise, and up until that point, this is my favorite book of the series and an exemplary culmination to the story.

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