A Map of Days (2018) – Ransom Riggs

Title:A Map of Days
Author:Ransom Riggs
Date published:2018
Publisher:Penguin Random House
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you have yet to find yourself walking down the Peculiar path than I would suggest opening up to the possibilities of children who can create fire from their fingers, bring the dead back to life, have the strength of twenty men or to (not so) simply be invisible.

In Ransom Riggs’ best-selling series we are introduced to our hero, Jacob Portman who is a pretty average sixteen year old kid who supposedly ‘loses the plot’ after his grandfather, Abe Portman dies. Jacob and his grandfather had been very close, and Jacob’s memories of Abe are ones filled with fantastic stories with more emphasis on the ‘fantasy’ part of fantastic. The only things of significance that Abe leaves behind for Jacob are a series of ancient photographs that are as strange as they are old. On a trip with his father to a remote island off the coast of Wales to hopefully clear young Jacob’s head he accidentally comes across an abandoned orphanage where he will meet Miss Peregrine and her troupe of peculiar children. Throughout the first novel we learn more about the ymbrynes who are Peculiars that can transform into birds and who are responsible for taking care of Peculiar children. These children having been living in a space known as a Loop. These so-called loops are spaces frozen in time and it is also the ymbrynes’ responsibility to make sure that the loops are reset every single day. If they are not reset the Peculiars will die. We also learn that Jacob Portman is not as average as he once thought because only those identified as Peculiar can step into Loops, and Jacob soon finds himself in a loop in the year nineteen forty. The very same loop that he will meet his new friends and the heroes of this series.

Before Abe Portman died tragically he once lived among this same group of Peculiars many, many years ago. His ability to control the hollowgast, a deadly dangerous enemy of the Peculiars makes his death a severe blow to the Peculiar community. It turns out Jacob is also able to control hollowgast, and soon becomes a friend and ally to the children and their ymbrynes. The sequels to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2011), Hollow City (2014) and Library of Souls (2015) take the reader on a journey of discovery through the Peculiar capital city of London to battle the hollowgast and their superiors the ghostly wights, until the final battle at Devil’s Acre where Jacob and his Peculiar friends will save all of Peculiar kind. This initial trilogy is made even more thrilling by the inclusion of numerous original black-and-white photographs that come from Ransom Riggs’ own personal and very real collection.

In A Map of Days (2018), Riggs continues the story of Jacob and his friends, but this time the struggle will not be in a place that is familiar to the Peculiars. These adventures will take place in the America of today, and also of a 1930’s America when racism was rife. In this fourth book we will once again be reunited with Peculiar favourites such as Emma Bloom, the girl who can make fire appear from her fingertips, (and who once had Abe’s heart and now has the young Jacob’s); Enoch the boy who has the ability to bring the dead back to life ; Bronwyn whose strength rivals no other and Millard the invisible boy, to name a few.

Due to a literal ‘loophole’ (pun intended) Miss Peregrine’s children now find themselves able to live outside of a loop and will therefore age normally in the world of today. With Jacob’s help they attempt to learn how to be ‘normal’ and fit in with the rest of humanity. In the midst of discovering the ocean and the marvel of the modern mall, they come across a hidden bunker beneath Abe’s now abandoned home. Suddenly a whole slew of information surrounding Jacob’s grandfather and the secret life he lived after leaving Miss Peregrine’s all those years ago come to light. These discoveries include a mysterious partner simply named ‘H’ and the work they did in saving Peculiar children over a number of years. Surely saving children was always the job of the ymbrynes? Well as Jacob and his Peculiar friends find themselves on a rescue mission of sorts, they soon learn the horrific truth that most of the ymbrynes in America have been eradicated and those still alive are in hiding. It turns out Abe and H were vigilantes who took it upon themselves to do what the ymbrynes no longer could. With this knowledge Jacob is determined to inherit his grandfather’s legacy and pick up the mantle along with a selection of his friends, against Miss Peregrine’s advice of course.

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