365 Days of Women Writers

Women writers only – no boys allowed

Archive for the ‘cornelia funke’ Category

Day 23: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

with 2 comments

I have to say that I love Inkheart with an unreasonable and giddy love. It gives me shivers because it’s so awesome and few books celebrate books and the act of reading as much as it does. When I wrote about comfort books, Inkheart is definitely one of my go to books. I think that’s why I was so very disappointed with the sequels – they were good, but they lost the magic quality of the original.

Which brings me to Reckless, Funke’s latest novel. The book opens with Jacob sneaking into his father’s study – former study actually, his father having disappeared several years before – and finding his way into a magic land via a mirror.

Rather unusually for a children’s book, the story then cuts forward 18 years and the remaining action happens when he and his brother William (no it’s not a coincidence that they have the same first names as the Grimm brothers) are adults.

William has followed Jacob through the mirror and is turning to stone – a goyl, a race of stone people who live below the ground and have been warring with the surface folk. Now Jacob’s desperate to cure his brother in an attempt to feel worthy of Will’s trust in him and the guilt he’s felt for abandoning Will.

It reminds me a bit of MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin but with a modern edge. Oh, and the goblins win the war.

There are echoes of fairy tales throughout the story and for the most part they don’t intrude on the story (I particularly liked the bit with the children-eating witches.) But for the most part it doesn’t add much.

I really liked the worldbuilding – Funke is a master of bringing us into her world and making us feel like we are there, and even better, wish we were there. I particularly like Fox, the girl who was given a foxskin who has fallen in love with Jacob but is so wedded to the freedom given by her fox shape she rarely chooses to be a human companion to him.

The book falls down on two fronts for me. First is the plotting. It is unfortunately a “run from place to place to attempt to gain the magic widget” (the widget being the cure to Will’s Goyl infection) type plot.

Funke commits a literary crime I’ve complained about before: She kills a character and then takes it back. NEVER DO THIS. If a character is going to come back to life, it ought to be hard.

Additionally, Funke is far too free with the magic get-out-of-jail-free card. You need to climb up the side of a castle? Oh what’s that in your pocket, some magic snail slime that will turn you invisible and a “Rapunzel hair” which is the ultimate climbing rope? Well, good thing you happened to have these things in your pocket. It’s convenient and unconvincing and while you ricochet from event to event, these sorts of things make the story far less effective than it could have been.

My second big gripe with the story, and it may be that this is addressed in the full series, is Jacob’s relationship with his father. It’s so central to how the story opens and what drives him into the fairy land, and yet it rarely makes an appearance in the story. His father is at the heart of Jacob and I wanted him to be part of the story, not at the edges.

The book is readable, enjoyable even, but it was not terribly memorable. When I was done I didn’t want to linger or flip back to the beginning and begin again.

ps, how ugly is the American cover (on the left below)? UK cover totally kicks its ass.

Written by Chance

October 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Posted in cornelia funke, novel