Thursday, September 23, 2010
Reckless - Cornelia Funke
Jacob Reckless has lost his parents. His father has disappeared and his mother is lost in her grief. A year after his disappearance Jacob enters his father's study to look for clues as to what happened. Instead Jacob finds the way into a different world, through the glass mirror hanging on his father's study wall. From that moment Jacob is also lost to his mother and brother Will, disappearing for extended periods into this alternate world but as Will and Jacob Reckless grow up Jacob's secret does not remain a secret and Will follows him through the mirror.
Although we first meet Jacob as a child the story very swiftly jumps to a point when the Jacob and his brother are adults in their twenties, their alternate universe is peopled with humans, fairies elves and goyle. It is a place where magic is real but not in a benevolent way. The goyle (stone men) aided by the Dark Fairy are at war with the humans, the humans are loosing. Due to a mistake made by Jacob his brother is injured by a goyle as a result of which Will's skin is slowly turning to stone. Will is turning into the Jade Goyle dreamed of by the Dark Fairy and sought by the Goyle king's most trusted general. Jacob must find a way of reversing the Dark Fairy's spell in order to save his brother.
Funke has created a beguiling and dangerous world, from child eating witches to Sleeping Beauty whose prince never came (and I don't even want to think about the Tailor who is stitching clothes of skin!). There is an argument that this is not a book for those under 12 although children who have grown up with fairy tales will be no stranger to the grotesque. The fact that the Reckless boys are in their twenties which is unusual in 'childrens' fiction also means that there are more adult elements to the story, there are intimations that Jacob has had a chequered love life in this mirror world and there is possible confusion as to who Will's girlfriend Clara (who has also ended up in this mirror world) truly loves, Will or his brother Jacob.
The story is told from Jacob's point of view. He has clearly operated both in this world and the mirror world as an independent entity for many years leaving his mother and Will for long periods of time. He is in all respects a mercenary, paid for his services and hired for his expertise in tracking down artefacts. He is calculating and alone, apart from Fox. The impetus for his quest to save his brother is the mistake he made which resulted in Will's injury but along the way he comes to value that which he is about to loose - his family. There are however other relationships in this mirror world that Jacob does not necessarily value and it will be interesting to observe through this intended trilogy whether Jacob's lessons in caring are the point of the series.
My only critism of the book would be Jacobs capacious pockets, he seems to have a magical item for every eventuality, which became quite conspicuous by the end of the book. It is clear however at the end that there are further adventures to be had in this new world and Jacob faces further challenges. I for one will be waiting for the next instalment with baited breath.