“Hollow City” is the second book in the “Peculiar Children” series, picking up immediately where the first book left off without much catch-up exposition. As I continued reading the series, my feelings got darker and more desperate, in line with the experience of the characters.
There is very little hope or joy in Jacob Portman’s journey. He is a young man who answers the call, and then just plugs away at all the minutiae of being a hero.
It’s not that it’s a chore to read. The action is very, well, active, and the “peculiarities” (which is to say, not “magic”) are imaginative and exciting, but the fear threaded through the story is palpable and constant, and it’s just not a fun romp.
These are children, essentially, even if most of them are somewhere between 80 and 100 years old. Something about the “time loops” which keep them from physically aging also arrest their emotional development, so that even with their decades of life experience (though they are also limited geographically by their time loops), they are fairly immature. They struggle with the burden of saving the world; they get very little sleep or food, and their physical injuries are real. They crave a grown-up to care for them, and the bulk of their mission centers on saving their caretaker rather than considering their responsibility for saving the world.
There is death, and there is chaos. It’s scary and disheartening, and plays out like an anxiety dream.
That said, Jacob’s growth, and the development of his own “peculiarity” is fascinating and moving. I was, for some unknown reason, eager to continue onward from here into the third and final book.