With the film in production and a soon to come cover reveal on the forthcoming third book, I felt I needed to truly finally get my thoughts around Ransom Riggs‘ series from my mind to the page. To explain something that is a time travel, alternate universe, super powered teenage romance tale built around found photographs hasn’t been easy. For a Young Adults tale it’s as dense, complicated and yet as mesmerizing as it may or may not sound to your fertile soul.
Pulling from photographs which you have no personal connection to but convey a lot to develop characters and plot was one of the most fascinating things ever. I can’t recall without referencing it how much of a story Ransom devised without the photos, but I don’t think it matters because it’s the final product that is the work. That work evoked to me in both books a formulation of so many genres and structures I’ve loved that I couldn’t hate it if I wanted. The title of the original series coyly or not feels like it could be referencing Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Children, but really that is where the connection stops in terms of plot. Following the lead character in his discovery of his grand father’s mystery, the existence of nightmarish creatures, a plane locked in a time loop, young men and women with extraordinary abilities trained by a school mistress who is way more Nanny McPhee than female Professor X all the way to the shocking end of the first book and the exciting but tragic second Miss Peregrine’s I felt like I was reading a comic book in prose format.
Amazingly within this crazy world which also finds itself in war torn WWII England, reveals shape changers, curious characters and a deep evil group that represents a world even larger than presented to lies a coming of age tale of a forbidden, impossible but miraculous young love. This relationship is not the kind you find in other young adult novels though. There is truly a twist to it that makes the fact that while as important as the action, adventure and threat to the world is… love is just as important, if not more so.
The upcoming third book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series is titled Library of Souls and is scheduled for September of 2015. I can only begin to imagine how Riggs will up the ante after the happening in the second book Hollow City.
On top of that third book as I mentioned a film is in production. It’s not just any film though, as it is poised to possibly be a major feature. Now it could easily go the direction of two ways in terms of success, but when it comes to quality it should be amazing. I personally think every film based on a modern popular YA series (published within the last 15 years) has had its merits. This film has quite the pedigree helping it happen though and has me quite excited to see it brought to life on the big screen. The story was adapted into a screenplay by Matthew Vaughn’s writing partner Jane Goldman who assisted on adapting Neil Gaiman’s romantic magical fantasy Stardust and Mark Millar’s teenage action series Kick-Ass as well as on her own the recent version of Susan Hill’s classic horror thriller Woman in Black. Taking that script into a film is Tim Burton who has been way more hit than miss in recent years and will be guided by the same production team who delivered St. Vincent and have his regular editor, as well as Danny Elfman on board for the music. The cast is pretty exciting as well, while the leads are important, it needs to be noted Judi Dench, Samuel Jackson, and Terrance Stamp will be in important minor roles. In the main roles though are future Spider-Man and former Hugo of Hugo Cabret, Asa Butterfield.. .who also played Ender, so he’s building quite the resume as lead characters from quality novels; Eva Green who has been building herself a good career plays the title Miss Peregrine (interesting side note, Asa played Mordred in TV series Merlin… while Eva played Morgan in the TV series Camelot); the third lead is played by Ella Purnell, an up & coming young actress who has played a young Keira Knightley and a young Angelina Jolie.. (so yeah, she’s quite pretty) and has been lauded for being a great actress on top of her looks. I’ve seen photos of her from shoots unconnected to Miss Peregrine and she truly embodies Emma Bloom.
One of the things I feel I must address more before closing off is the use of fascinating found photography in the book. It truly turns Miss Peregine’s books from powerful prose about super powered teenagers, love and time travel into something else. These photos are all real and have their own story… a story that is not the story of Ransom Riggs book. One can build upon the story in each photograph and add layers not there, tangents explored only by each readers imagination and they truly add to the series. As a photographer myself and a lover of other photographers and just photography as a whole it pulls me in. Even in my own collection I have photos I don’t recall taking of people, places, things and they are weird and eerie. Tricks of the light, weird optical illusions happened in shooting, processing or developing the photo be it old style film or digital. It is this aspect that has brought me back to these books more than once after reading them despite the series being only 4 years old in publication and I think the same would go for anyone.
Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children & Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (published by Quirk Books) are both available now in hardcover and paperback from all booksellers.
(I close with an accidental photo I have shot years ago and loved after seeing it in my roll, which I have no answer for but I feel tells a story, one even more fascinating then if I knew what it was I meant to photograph originally)