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'The Desolations of Devil’s Acre': Ransom Riggs' 'Peculiar' end comes to BookPeople event

Sharyn Vane
Special to the American-Statesman
Author Ransom Riggs will appear in a virtual BookPeople event tied to his book “The Desolations of Devil’s Acre."

After a decade — no time loops needed — it’s time to bid goodbye to the peculiars.

Ransom Riggs concludes his New York Times-bestselling series with “The Desolations of Devil’s Acre” (Dutton/Penguin, $22.99). He’ll discuss the book virtually on Thursday via BookPeople, with fellow bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

The world first met Jacob Portman in 2011, when Riggs wove eerie vintage photographs into his tale about children with supernatural powers, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Since then, readers have flocked to four more novels in the series, graphic novel adaptations, the 2016 Tim Burton-directed feature film and a standalone story collection. Over email, Riggs said it was “emotional” to end the series.

“After ten years of writing about these people, they had begun to feel, in some small but real way, like an extension of my family,” he said. “They had certainly become Jacob’s family, and he was always a bit of an avatar for myself. It was almost as if Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children had adopted both of us.”

Jacob first learns about peculiars after his grandfather dies. Investigating Abe Portman’s old photographs, Jacob discovers a Welsh island of children, each with an unusual skill: invisibility, immense strength, levitation, raising the dead. Headmistress Miss Peregrine can transform into a bird. So begin adventures that shift in time and location, anchored by the peculiars and their fearsome opponents, including peculiar-eating hollowgasts and the human-appearing wights.

“The Desolations of Devil’s Acre” is the final book in the "Miss Peregrine" series.

“I think horror elements in fiction allow us to peer into dark places we’d be too scared to venture in real life,” Riggs explained. “We can play-act these scary scenarios in our head, and it helps us to exorcise some of the anxiety we carry with us. I think, too, that most of us are fascinated by the unknown and the unseen, whatever form it takes. Personally, I’ve always loved slightly cheesy old gothic horror, and I wanted to have fun with that, and scare my readers now and then, if I could.”

Spookiness aside, at its heart the series celebrates the magic of a found family, as Jacob builds bonds with those around him. That’s particularly important to Riggs, he said.

“My immediate family was always very small. My dad passed away when I was very young, and my mom and I moved to Florida when I was a kid to help out my grandmother, leaving behind most everyone else in the family. So as I was growing up, I made my friends into an extension of my family,” he said. “We do that: We go out into the world and find our people if we’re lucky, and in that way Jacob’s family-finding journey was a tiny bit like my own. Though my mom and grandmother were wonderful, nothing like Jacob’s parents.”

Riggs has been revisiting the series with fans on Instagram Live in the run-up to the book’s release, and he likes that virtual events can connect readers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. That said, he’s looking forward to the return of in-person gatherings.

“Oh, I really miss meeting traveling to different parts of the country to meet fans and booksellers,” he said. “So much of a writer’s life is virtual already — we spend all day in a room by ourselves making things up — that it’s grounding to go out into the world, meet the actual people who read our books, see those physical objects on physical shelves, and be reminded that what we do has an end result that is more than just imaginary.”

How to watch

What: “The Desolations of Devil’s Acre” discussion with author Ransom Riggs in conversation with Leigh Bardugo

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $32.89-$35.76. Includes signed copy of the book and swag item; VIP ticketing also includes a 60-second meet-and-greet with Riggs, hosted by Looped.

Information: bookpeople.com/event; 512-472-5050