Cornelia Funke – Reckless
10. Reckless by Cornelia Funke (2010)
Reckless, Book 1
Read By: Elliot Hill
Length: 6h 43min (400 pages)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Started: 14 January 2011
Finished: 19 January 2011
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I love the Inkworld trilogy, have enjoyed the rest of Funke’s books, and love dark fairy tales, so of course I was going to read this one.
The other side of
the mirror holds a world that’s
darker than you dreamed.
Summary: When Jacob Reckless was very young, his father disappeared. Once Jacob got a little older, he followed in his father’s footsteps: disappearing into the mirror in his father’s study, into the Mirrorworld, a world that is full of fairy tale creatures – both the good and the evil. One day, when he was 25, his younger brother Will followed him through the mirror, but he was quickly injured by the power of the Dark Fairy… and that injury is spreading, turning Will’s skin into stone: the mark of a Goyl, a race of powerful and inhuman soldiers. Jacob is determined to find a cure for his brother, so they set off, accompanied by Clara, Will’s girlfriend who followed him through the mirror, and Fox, a shape-shifter girl who has been Jacob’s long-time companion inside the Mirrorworld. Along the way, they must face not only terrors from the darkest hearts of fairy tales, but also their own hopelessness and despair, for Will’s humanity is slipping away, and their quest seems all but futile.
Review: Reckless is an great example of a book with a fantastic premise and tons of narrative possibilities, that nevertheless doesn’t quite manage to live up to its potential. Funke has a knack for creating fairy-tale worlds out of the darkest materials possible, and while Inkworld was new, Mirrorworld is straight out of the Grimm Brothers (not coincidentally, also a Jacob & Will duo), with none of the Disney-fied sugar coating. It felt like stepping into the medieval Black Forest, and there’s a broad suggestion that the Grimms created their stories out of their experiences in Mirrorworld, instead of the other way around. Hansel & Gretel and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and countless others all show up in Reckless, if not in person then certainly in thematic and plot elements. It’s a bit of a mishmash, but it runs according to the familiar logic of fairy tales, so the result is a world both immediately familiar and terrifyingly foreign, and rife with possibilities for stories to tell.
And Jacob’s story has the potential to be a good one. Its themes – of guilt and betrayal and obligation and family, and of how far those things can drive a person even when set against all better judgement and logic – are not only fairly unusual ones for children’s fiction, but are also pretty dark in and of themselves, more so than would be suggested by the suggested pre-teen age range. Jacob’s inner demons are just as powerful as the fairy-tale monsters he has to face, and it lends the story an emotional complexity I wasn’t expecting.
Where Reckless fell short of its potential for me was that it didn’t spend enough time exploring all of these complexities. It is a relatively short book (less than 7 hours of audio), and it is breathlessly fast-paced. Too much so, in fact; it was so fast-moving that it was easy to get a little lost, and difficult to keep tabs on how the characters had gotten from point A to point B in just a few minutes, and why. A lot of crucial details went by with minimal to no explanation, and I think Funke would have been better served by slowing down, and giving her characters – and her story – time to breathe and grow in between all of the action sequences. The basic materials of a great book are all there, but it seems like in trying to pitch the book towards a younger audience – a strange choice, given the ages of the characters, the nature of some of the themes, and the overall darkness of the story – Funke shortchanged the very things that would make it most interesting as a crossover read for adults. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It’s not without its flaws, but I think Reckless is still worth picking up for anyone who likes darker fairy tale retellings, or who enjoys Funke’s imaginative world-building.
Aside: There are a number of elements to this book that are *freakishly* similar to one of the plots that’s been rolling around inside my head for years, for when I – as my father says – “give up on this whole ‘science’ thing and decide to settle down and become a famous author.” Guess I should have done NaNoWriMo this year so I could have at least gotten it down on paper first, huh? Ah well.
First Line: The night breathed through the apartment like a dark animal.
© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.