This book was my pick for our most recent book club. I had read a few reviews and seen the marvelously creepy cover as well as the hyped up marketing campaign and it sounded like it would be right up my street plus it’s young adult fiction, which has always done quite well in my book club.
The story follows Jacob, a teenage boy who has always been very close to his grandfather – a man who has told him tales of monsters and magnificent children with amazing powers all his life. When Jacob’s grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances Jacob starts to wonder if some of the stories might be true. Using weird photographs and letters his grandfather left behind, Jacob follows a series of clues that lead him to the remote Welsh island children’s home where his grandfather grew up but nothing is as it seems and soon he is pulled into a world more fantastical than he could ever have imagined – one which is under threat and needs his help.
It sounds kind of awesome, right? Except for the most part it’s not. The pictures that accompany the story, which are mostly real vintage photos are very odd and intriguing and weird and cool. It’s just that the writing kind of isn’t. I found myself unable to connect with Jacob at all. He never seemed like a real person and I couldn’t make myself care about any of his trials and tribulations or about really any of the peculiar children I encountered throughout the story. I also found the mythology to be a bit all over the shop and ultimately confusing and over-complicated especially when it came to the hollows. It wasn’t unreadable and I did like the way Riggs described his remote and mysterious setting but overall it just fell a bit flat for me and I don’t feel the need to read any further novels in the series.
Maybe the upcoming films starring Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson will work better, especially at the hands of Tim Burton, who does this kind of thing well… you know when he’s not being completely crap.