When Jacob was 11, his father disappeared. After a year of missing him and being angry at his disappearance, Jacob enters his father’s study, and, following some cryptic notes, ends up falling through a mirror into a completely different world.
Fast-forward 12 years, and Jacob has made a life for himself in the Mirrorworld as a Finder for the Empress Therese of Austry. Then one day (and once is all it takes), his younger brother Will follows him through the mirror and is attacked by the Goyl, stone people who are at war with the humans. As a result, Will is slowly turning into the jade Goyl, cursed by the Dark Fairy to be the protector for the Goyl king.
Jacob is angry — at himself, at the fairy, at the world, at Will — and has vowed to do anything to save his brother. This leads him, Will, Will’s girlfriend Clara (who came through the mirror after him), and a shape-shifter by the name of Fox (who’s been Jacob’s companion for years, and wishes that Jacob could realize that she’s more than just his shadow) on an interesting, dangerous and possibly futile adventure across the world hoping to save Will from becoming a Goyl for good.
It’s a clever story, turning Grimm’s fairy tales upside down, weaving them through this dark tale. Dark enough that with the age of the characters and the intensity of the tale, I kept wondering why this is a middle-grade novel. It’s scary. It’s intense. It’s not for the faint of heart. But in the end, it’s really a growing-up story, about relationships between family and friends, and rectifying mistakes. It’s about learning to become more mature, for even though Jacob is adult in age, his name — Reckless — still defines who and what he is.
The whole story makes so much more sense when viewed this way. However, I’d be loath to give it to younger middle-grade readers. And as the jacket flap warns: it’s not a happily-ever-after.
As for the medium, I think I enjoyed it better listening to it (though there were times when I wondered about who was speaking; I gather Jacob talked to himself quite a bit) than I would have reading it. It does make a compelling read-aloud fairy tale, which helped me get into the story in a way I wouldn’t have if I’d read the print version. (It also helped that I couldn’t look to the end to see if it all turned out “OK.”)
Also, props to Cornelia Funke for creating such an elaborate and interesting world. She, much like J.K. Rowling, has an incredible imagination and a gift for making everything pop off the page. Reckless is a strange book, but it’s one I think will stay with me for quite a while.
Rated: Moderate, for language, intensity and allusions to off-screen sex. Not suitable for the youngest middle-grade readers.