Monday, April 30, 2012

Reckless - A Novel by Cornelia Funke

"The sheet of paper slipped out of a book on airplane propulsion. Jacob only picked it up because he thought he recognized his father's handwriting on it, though he quickly realized his error. Symbols and equations, a sketch of a peacock, a sun, two moons. None of it made sense. Except one sentence he spotted on the reverse side: THE MIRROR WILL OPEN ONLY FOR HE WHO CANNOT SEE HIMSELF. Jacob turned around - and his glance was met by his own reflection."

                                                                        - Cornelia Funke in Reckless

Would you dare walk through the mirror and enter a mysterious world, foreign to all your experience and knowledge? Well, would you ?

Over the years, I have had a love affair with the fantasy writing of Cornelia Funke. When Inkheart was first published, I happened upon it right away and was so taken with the story and the clever use of literary quotations as chapter headings that I did a book talk for the library classes of an entire 6th grade class at the elementary school at which I was working. I wanted every kid to discover her writing and the world of fantasy that she created.

Since that series, I have waited for a book to come along that would get me as excited as I was with Inkheart and its two follow-ups. I think perhaps Cornelia Funke might have done it for me with her
latest book. While I have stayed away from it for a good while, in hopes that she would have a sequel published by the time I picked up the first, it was time to give in last week. I have waited long enough!

Reckless , like Inkheart et al, is another book with a 'parallel world' setting ... a world where fairy tales are more than literary relics and magic lies around every corner, in every forest, inside each castle, in common everyday objects. Jacob Reckless learns that early in life, when he happens upon a mysterious mirror in his father's study. His father has disappeared without a trace and Jacob feels the loss deeply. He is angry and scared and frustrated that his mother is so unable to cope. He is perhaps a bit jealous that his younger brother, Will, is so favored by his mother and is so very fearful and needy. Jacob is being forced to grow up faster than most twelve year olds ... and then, he discovers a special trait of the mirror in his father's study ...

Mirrorworld opens itself to Jacob when he moves through the mirror to a world of castles and rogues, stonemen called Goyl's that yearn to rob humans of their humanity by gouging their skin and infecting them with their stone crystals, witches and fairies,  a world where magical relics like glass slippers and nettle shirts, magic handkerchiefs and spinning wheels will bring a good price and perhaps save one's life. The world becomes Jacob's private adventure and as he grows older, Jacob becomes more and more enthralled with this secret world. Flash forward!

Jacob is now in his twenties and faces the ultimate crisis ... saving his brother from a fate that will surely force the two brothers to become mortal enemies.  Jacob has been reckless. He has allowed his brother to stumble on the secret world. Will has foolishly followed his older brother into Mirrorworld and suffered a grave injury. Now, Jacob must save his brother's life and restore his 'humanity'. This is a quest that will lead him on a dangerous voyage, a quest that he must succeed at, in order to assuage his guilt over a mistake he has made ...

There will be no spoiler here in this post. The book IS a page turner once the plot ratchets up to speed. It's a feast for the fairy tale fiend, as it is rich in allusion and the artist/reader will be engaged in the plentiful pencil illustrations.  Fitting for upper elementary readers, the book will also interest older kids too. There is an element of romance involved with Will and his girlfriend, and the age of the main characters will lend a certain link to the older reader. The plot does not shy from physical violence, but the gore is kept to the minimum and the plot does not overly rely on battle and bashing. There are ghoulish traits to the 'baddies', though ... enough to keep the reader with ghoulish delights happy.

I loved this book, once I got into the world that Jacob discovers and got my orientation ... my reading became an exercise in several things - a constant search for the many allusions to famous fairy tales and myths ... a character study of the two young men ... enjoyment of the unfolding plot of the story ... a fun acknowledgement of the author's play on German place names and references and wordplay on famous historical figures (Jacob and Will Reckless vs. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, for example) ... and a search for clues to the disappearance of Jacob and Will's father. I'm hoping for a sequel ... or even a prequel to Funke's Reckless . I waited long enough for this new world of hers to unfold. That CAN'T be all there is!

This book is a fitting offering for Carl's Once Upon a Time .... blogging event, young adult fantasy of the first degree. My one concern is that it has already been shared in a previous 'Once Upon a Time' event ... old news that is new to me. Ah well, that is the nature of literature, isn't it? It's always new to the reader who discovers it, despite its age.


  1. I read this and the Inkheart series quite some time ago and, like you, loved them all. I think I was a little more smitten with Inkheart though. But this is a reminder I should reread the books because it's been a long time. Glad you enjoyed this one, thanks for the review!

    1. I loved Inkheart and its sequels ... but was SOOO disappointed with the movie. I suppose there was just so much to the story that distilling it for the 2 hour movie run was just too much to ask of the production people ... alas, and alack!

    2. yes, from the opening scene I saw how much was cut needed a director like Jackson who loved the movie he was making. (I did love that Andy Serkis got to be a bad guy, Capricorn.)

    3. This book sounds like something I would really enjoy. I must look it up - this Once upon a Time challenge is doing nothing to reduce by TBR pile!
      Lynn :D