Once again, Ransom Riggs delivers on rich world-building and unexpected suspense in The Conference of the Birds, the latest addition to the Miss Peregrine’s series.
Diving back into this series always feels like coming home for me. It just gives me that warm, fuzzy, safe feeling, which is funny, because this world is anything but safe. It’s been one of my favorites since I first read it three years ago (and reread it several times since then). I’m fascinated by the world-building, which is so unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I love the characters. There’s a wide cast of main characters, yet each one has their own distinct personality. Beyond that, I’ve also been drawn to the close bond all the peculiars have. Despite being vastly different, they still choose to love each other and protect each other, no matter the danger. Whenever Jacob would try to sneak off and do something dangerous without them, they would insist on going with him, because they didn’t want him to be alone.
This book opens with Jacob on a perilous mission, rescuing an American peculiar named Noor. Noor is crucial because she is supposed to fulfill a prophecy, a prophecy stating that she and six others will save peculiardom from coming doom, although they are not yet sure what that doom is. However, when Jacob and Noor return to Devil’s Acre, a.k.a. Headquarters, they learn that the wights they’d been keeping imprisoned have broken free and are headed to America to wreak havoc. Of course, they can do nothing without their leader, Caul, who is trapped in a collapsed loop… or is he? Jacob’s been hearing voices in his head, and when he learns that Miss Peregrine is hearing them too, he starts to wonder if Caul is really gone after all.
The American peculiars aren’t exactly behaving themselves, either. Jacob, Miss Peregrine, and other members of the team must rush to put out fires as the leaders of opposing clans almost go to war over a missing girl, each side pointing fingers at the other. On top of this, Jacob and his friends must find V, one of his grandfather’s most powerful associates, and the only one who may be able to tell them the missing pieces about Noor. But V doesn’t want to be found, and with very few clues to go on, chances of finding her are looking grim.
This book will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Every time you think the plot is as tense as it can be, the stakes are raised again. A new villain emerges, something doesn’t work the way it should, or a plan fails. The action never falters for a moment. Towards the end, things start to look like they’re wrapping up nicely, like all the plot lines are being resolved, and finally the peculiars can have some peace. But just when you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, BAM, Riggs flings a twist at us, one that I did sort of see coming, but had really hoped would never arrive. With that kind of ending, I can’t imagine how Book Six will go, but I know that I need it, and I need it NOW.
Sadly, this fifth book did let me down a little. When Map of Days came out, many people complained that it felt forced, and it had lost the spark that the first series had, and I disagreed. I adored Map of Days and how it expanded the peculiar world. In The Conference of the Birds, however, I did start to see that lost spark. While I felt that the world-building and plot were as tight as ever, if less creative than Map of Days (it is a smaller book), what has really changed is Jacob’s voice. Jacob has always been my favorite character. I identified with him and his longing not to be ordinary on such a deep level. My copies of the first four books are filled with underlined lines that I just have loved and taken to heart. In this book, he’s just not the same. He sounds more like a passive narrator than his own person. He’s also no longer with Emma in this book, which feels so wrong after watching them fall in love for the first three books. Without Emma, he starts to wonder if he even belongs in the peculiar world anymore, or if he just wants to be normal again, and that’s just not the Jacob I know.
Although it’s not practically perfect in every way, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and getting to spend time with the characters and world that I love so dearly. If you love Miss Peregrine’s, you will find so many things to love about this book and you will be itching to get your hands on Book Six, just like I am.