- More like 4.5 spades, truth be told.
- The cover art is stellar.
I had seen this book in the library on several occasions and had mentally added it to the ‘I am intrigued and should read this’ list. But I didn’t take the plunge until a few others from my reading group had read it (see Sarah’s review), and jeez am I glad I did. First of all, old photographs are just amazing. I find myself often sifting through bins of them at the flea market but I had never thought about writing a story to these pictures. So heads up, Ransom Riggs. Secondly, Ransom is a brilliant name and you lived up to it holding my attention ransom the entire time! I’ll show myself to the door …..
Onto the review …. As I said in my Goodreads summary, the book is cool. I personally loved the slow development of the story as it drew me in the entire time. Jacob’s relationship with his grandfather was unique and odd right from the beginning – while I felt I was sure that grandpa wasn’t just making up things, I still was afraid at times that I would be wrong about him … he seemed just enough crazy to make you question your stance. Jacob had been off his entire life as well, seeing psychiatrist after psychiatrist. Upon suggestion of his latest doctor and his strong desire to figure out if grandfather Portman was actually telling the truth he visits grandpa’s old orphanage in Wales. And this is where the fantastic events unravel forcing Jacob to face time loops, peculiar children with unusual skills, evil and demonic beasts, and revealing in the end that Dr. Golan (his psychiatrist) is not who he thinks he is, which was to me the biggest plot twist and kind of caught me off guard a bit (which I liked).
The overarching theme of accepting everyone as they are (flaws and all, with flaws here being the peculiarity of the orphans) is a common young adult fiction lesson but was executed really well. The notion that fantastic and real worlds can exist in parallel and common events can span both universes (think WW2 for example) felt genuine and kept my inner kid’s hopes alive that this is true and somehow one day I’ll discover magic like this. I am still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts you know.
I really only have two minor criticisms. The budding romance between Emma (his grandfather’s former flame) and Jacob is creepy and seems inappropriate and I don’t know if it truly adds anything to the story. And I wish the book would’ve been a bit scarier – it so promised to be a good Halloween night read.