Jacob Reckless and the Mirrorworld
Book Review 3: Fearless by Cornelia Funke (and Lionel Wigram)
Series: Mirrorworld, no. 2
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Completion Date: August 5, 2019
BookmarkedOne Rating: 7/10
Content for the sensitive reader: fantasy violence (with pistols this time because of the Mirrorworld), characters getting drunk and/or using magical drugs, multiple innuendos, a mildly gory scene in Bluebeard’s house (if you know the fairytale, tell your friends not to ask), frequent references to witches and black magic, mild language. Reader be cautioned.
This is a Cornelia Funke book. If that means one thing, it’s that there’s a lot going on here. It’s not going to be an easy review for me. Or a short one.
So grab your plushies, curl up tight, and don’t spill your tea! We have Jacob Reckless, genies, steam power, the power of love and death, and a Fairy’s curse to deal with!
What You Should Know First:
A slight bias. I hunt Cornelia Funke’s books like a wolf stalking a plump rabbit (anyone else waiting for Inkheart 4?). I can be patient. But when the time comes, I will devour the thing from cover to cover, regardless of whether it’s Ruffleclaw, The Thief Lord, Emma and the Blue Genie, Inkdeath, or Reckless. I don’t like all of them, the first Dragon Rider in particular. I haven’t read her ghost stories. I wouldn’t call myself a goggle-eyed fan. But as soon as I see the name Cornelia Funke on the spine of a book, it’s in my hands being inspected very thoroughly.
She’s the woman who introduced me to Dustfinger, Meggie, Elinor, Mo, and Farid in Inkheart; and the lovable Scipio, Prosper, Bo, and Hornet in The Thief Lord. She’s the one who made me realize that sometimes you have to write what’s wrong because it’s the truth. She’s the one who through her characters taught me not to be afraid of the words people say, the names they call us all. Even if they call you a coward, a liar, a witch. You know who you really are.
In short, don’t speak against my Funke. If you want to complain, I’ll probably be pigheaded and argue.
Well, let’s see. It’s a concoction mixed of equal parts violence, black magic, and strongly implied crudity. The entire book is rather grisly. Not that it’s unexpected. The treasure hunt Jacob Reckless is on involves the dismembered corpse of a long-dead ruler called the Witch-Slayer as the clues.
It’s not a bright and cheery one.
If you’re looking for a fantasy with snarky main characters that are going to make you laugh until tears come into your eyes, this isn’t it. At all.
There’s also Louis of Lotharaine, who deserved more than a few dozen punches in the face.
Less said about that, the better.
I don’t hate Jacob Reckless anymore. Yes, he’s the protagonist, the best treasure-hunter in either world, not a bad shot, good with a sword, careless, irresponsible, and inventive. Don’t really care. When I crossed paths with him probably two years ago, I dubbed him the “James Bond of the Fairytale World,” and really didn’t mind the idea of something in the Mirrorworld trying to eat him on a regular basis. In Reckless, we found out about his relationship with the Red Fairy.
Fox was perfectly right to bite him as hard as she did. And I couldn’t have agreed more with Dunbar in this book telling her she should find someone better to wander with over the face of the beautiful world. Fox deserves someone who looks at her the way Kvothe looks at his lute.
This time around…it’s different. Maybe I’m weakening because Jacob’s so pathetic when he’s dying. Maybe it’s because this time around I know there are far worse characters out there than he is, because I can see a few of the things he doesn’t do, and I overlook (not forgive) the things he does.
And maybe I’ll change my mind. He still doesn’t deserve Fox, after all. But I’ll refrain from muttering at the pages that she should find someone better. For now.
The Dark Fairy and Kami’en barely appear in this book, which is good in my opinion because I never really cared for either of them. It’s just Jacob, Fox, and Nerron doing what they do best. Hunting treasure.
There’s also the fact that this book overcomes what so many sequels don’t–Cornelia doesn’t just give us exactly the same thing as the first book because it’s what she knows we liked. No. Every time we think we understand the Mirrorworld, the rules about how this place is supposed to work, almost to where we could survive in it ourselves, predict it, even, she changes it. Every corner you turn, the world grows larger, more complex, more dangerous, and yes, very, very beautiful. I read these books for the Mirrorworld, if nothing else.
And of course there are a few over-the-top “Jacob Reckless Almost Dies (Again)” scenes. Because he’s Jacob Reckless. Going to find something to fight is what he does. On the weekends. If he’s bored. If he actually needs something. For a trophy. For the bragging rights. To prove to himself he could. Because he’s dying. It’s just what he does.
But he doesn’t just magically not get hurt or suddenly isn’t affected by his injuries the next morning (some books actually shorten the time frame to hours without explanation). Jacob gets smashed in the face and gets scars he carries with him. But he doesn’t let it faze him. No matter how frightening the situation is, in some ways, Jacob really is fearless. The stakes can be higher than ever thought possible, and his hands don’t shake. He bleeds out on the floor, and he doesn’t make a single flinch to tell you he feels the pain. It’s not important. What he’s doing is.
The writing style is about as intoxicating as I remember from Reckless. And the characters are real. Cornelia has a way (do I admire this or hate it? I don’t know.) of turning characters on their heads. Someone who you thought was a friend turns out to be the one person standing in the way of what you have to do, with a rotting black core instead of a heart. And sometimes the foulest of enemies shine a little, and turn out to be friends. For a while.
This time around I especially liked the reappearance of Donnersmarck, the very casual mention of Alma as if she’d always been around looking after Jacob like a mother hen, and the introduction of Dunbar.
Dunbar just needed a lot more time in the book, if you ask me. The bookish ones always do.
The End Result:
It’s not a kid’s book. It’s not a tame book. It’s not for those with hefty consciences or for the gentle-hearted. This book is broken and messy and dirty and obsessed with death. But to be perfectly honest, that seems to be one of its charms.
When I started reading Cornelia Funke’s works and really falling hard for them, my favorite thing was her characters. Cornelia could write children’s fiction, but she never wrote things spun of sugar or flawless white pearls on a string. No. Cornelia wrote a broken world that we could find every time we looked up from the pages, and that’s what made her stories real. By letting some of the world we know, the painful, dark and dirty one, into her words, she was able to convince us magic was real. Just for a little while. Just for long enough.
When I read Reckless, things were different. For one thing, I didn’t fully know what I was in for. For another, I was different. Younger. Happier, maybe. I wasn’t ready for it then.
This isn’t the sort of book you hand to someone whose life is going well, who is going out for a picnic later in the afternoon with friends and family, anybody who is having a good day. Because they’ll probably miss their picnic hiding in their house with the blinds closed, huddled in a corner hoping everyone will go away so they can finish reading.
It’s not the darkest book I’ve ever read. But it’s not meant for someone who doesn’t have an aching spot in their chest, knowing the world is broken and confused, hurting like the bite of a Fairy moth curse over your heart. You give the book to them because they need to see a world just as horrible, but a world where somewhere, maybe in the darkest, most grisly places, there is still hope. Still the possibility of a happy ending.
That’s Fearless. It’s the story of grabbing what scares you by the throat and carrying it with you every day because you aren’t strong enough to break its neck. It’s about knowing what it is to taste death on your tongue like ash and face it anyway because you know there are so many things worse than death. Things you have to fight with every ounce of strength that is in you, or life has no meaning, isn’t worth living anymore.
At least, that’s what it says if you read it the way I do.
Can’t say it’s for everyone. Can’t really say if it’s for me.
But I’ll probably have my wolf’s eyes trained on the shelves for book three for a while.