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Cornelia Funke – Reckless

January 27, 2011

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.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

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.

Other Reviews: All About {n}, Beyond Books, The Book Bind, Charlotte’s Library, Killin’ Time Reading
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The night breathed through the apartment like a dark animal.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2011 7:25 am

    I saw this book awhile ago and thought about picking it up. I might shuffle it further down my want to read list. And I also wonder if I should read it or listen to it. You’ve given me some great recommendations (audio & shorts).

    • January 27, 2011 9:30 am

      Christina – A lot of books gain something (for me, at least) in audio – Funke’s Inkworld books were better read aloud than they were in print, I think, maybe because a main part of the story involved reading books aloud?

      Anyways, one of the exceptions is when a book has pacing problems, since you can’t skim an audiobook if it’s moving slow, and it’s a lot harder to go back and re-read a specific section if things are moving too fast. In Reckless‘s case, I think it’d be better in print, just so you could go at your own speed through sections where they’re moving hectically from one critical detail to another.

  2. January 27, 2011 8:07 am

    I have been waiting to read a review of this for ages. Not sure if it is for me now, loved Inkheart though.

    • January 27, 2011 9:35 am

      vivienne – I feel a little Goldilocks-ian here: I thought Inkheart was too slow, Reckless was too fast, and Inkspell was just right. :)

      I really do think that if you liked the Inkworld books, you’ll like this one too (although maybe not as much). There are a lot of similarities in the worldbuilding, and they both have the same indescribable Funke “feel” to them. Reckless‘s plotting is problematic, but a lot of its other elements are really good.

  3. January 27, 2011 10:19 am

    I liked Inkheart by far the best of Funke’s books, but I didn’t love it enough that I read the sequels. Maybe I should get on that after all. I heard an interview with her on NPR, and she did a short reading from Dragon Rider — she has a beautiful reading voice. I wish she would read her own audiobooks.

    • January 27, 2011 10:25 am

      Jenny – Oh, do! I liked Inkheart well enough, but I LOVED the sequels, and need to re-read them soon.

      I haven’t heard Funke speak, but I can’t wish for anyone other than Brendan Fraser to read the audiobooks for Inkspell and Dragon Rider… he’s a wonderful narrator, and so perfect for Mo.

  4. January 27, 2011 10:59 am

    I liked Inkheart but had a hard time going through the second book. Since you mentioned it is better read aloud (I eh, translate it as “listened to”) than read, I think that was my problem. Maybe I should look for the audio version of the sequels. Dragon Rider was just okay for me though I do adore her drawings in all the books. Maybe if I pick up Inkspell at a different frame of mind I’d probably enjoy it. Haven’t seen the film version in its entirety (I only catch bits and pieces on cable) so maybe I should check the schedule next time :)

    And I’ll be on the lookout for this title which is promising. I like visiting dark, creepy, mirror worlds :)

    • January 28, 2011 9:25 am

      Lightheaded – I did mean “listened to” when I said “read aloud” – That’s symptomatic of the fact that I treat audiobooks as a grown-up way of having someone read me a bedtime story. :) (And that’s doubly the case for Inkspell – Brendan Fraser reads it like he is reading a bedtime story to his own kids.)

      As for the film version, it was mostly good: brilliant casting, very well shot, a generally good adaptation… and then they went and mucked with the ending. Boo!

  5. January 27, 2011 6:32 pm

    I was sort of curious about this one, but haven’t had any further thoughts on it. Mainly because I still have some of her older books to read!

    • January 28, 2011 9:26 am

      Kailana – Maybe by the time you read her older books, the rest of this series will be out so you can read it without waiting!

  6. January 27, 2011 7:15 pm

    It does sound intriguing but I’d read it rather than listen.

    • January 28, 2011 9:26 am

      Carrie – I think that’s the right choice for this one.

  7. January 27, 2011 9:48 pm

    Philip Pullman often talks about how YA literature and children’s literature focus almost exclusively on story, and it sounds like Funke is confusing story with a relentless pace here.

    • January 28, 2011 9:28 am

      Omni – The really frustrating thing for me was that while it was very much “storystorystory”, there were all of these interesting ideas and themes and things peeking around the edges, but the plot train never slowed down enough so that you could get a good look at them.

  8. February 15, 2011 1:38 am

    Possibly she received feedback on how her Inkworld books dragged a bit and decided to remedy that with this fast-paced one?

  9. Annabeth permalink
    June 5, 2011 8:38 pm

    I read it and I loved it. I have to write a report on this book, though I forgot what the solution was. Can you help me with this? I seriously do not want to raed the whole book again. Not that the book wasn’t good. By the way, I love your report. You did such a great job.

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