When Jacob Reckless enters his father’s study, he intends to find answers to the man’s mysterious disappearance a year before. He doesn’t anticipate finding those answers in a strange world on the other side of the mirror hanging on the wall. Jacob hides this discovery from his mother and brother for years, but one day his brother follows him. Will learns that the stories Jacob brought back from “travelling” – the child-eating witches, talking foxes, and fairies – are all true. Then Will is attacked by a Goyl, a type of stone creature intent on enslaving the human race. As Will’s skin slowly turns to stone, Jacob is in a race against time to prevent his brother from turning in to one of the monsters. Though the reader will find familiar creatures from fairy tales in this book, as the front cover says, “if you’re looking for happily ever after, you’ve come to the wrong place…”
I was actually kind of disappointed with this plot, which knocked the score down. It simply didn’t seem fresh. It was like I was reading Inkheart again – a much older version of Inkheart, sure, with more basis in our own Earthly fairy tales – but the concept was very much the same. Instead of people being read out of books (or later, into them), Jacob steps through a mirror into another world. He meets strange creatures there. There’s an enemy to fight against. Etc.
That said, this is a much older book than Inkheart ever was, which probably hit home when the characters peered at the mummified body of Sleeping Beauty lying in her castle. Travelling through some of my favorite classic fairytales was great fun, and I liked each mention of them, however brief. And these weren’t the kiddified, Disney versions of fairytales, either. I mentioned the mummification, right? Yeah, her prince never found her.
As for the Goyl, I don’t know. They were pretty frightening – I mean, something that, when it attacks you, can turn you into stone, killer zombies (okay, not zombies, but you get their mindset, anyway) is pretty frightening. It just didn’t seem like people were fighting them. Like at the start of the story, everyone had already given up. I kind of wanted to see more of a fight, particularly on the part of the queen. It was like we were thrown in to the story at the end of the war, and I wanted it to be more middling.
This book is left wide-open for a sequel, though, so I know there will be more. The plot DID pick up as the book progressed, and kept getting better, it was the beginning and middle I seemed to be having problems with. I almost set it down once. Almost. But I kept going, and was rewarded with a great ending. It is something worth reading, particularly if you enjoyed Inkheart or Funke’s other books. I think the sequel (I know I’m talking prematurely here – but I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a sequel) will be better.
I wasn’t particularly in love with any of the characters except, perhaps, Fox. Fox intrigues me to no end and I wanted to know more about her and her past. She was strong and haughty but oddly vulnerable at the same time, and to be honest, I just have a thing for talking foxes.
The others didn’t connect with me. I found Jacob a bit annoying for basically running away from his family and not wanting them back in his life, which I just didn’t understand. I hate to say I was waiting for the cliché older brother who needed to protect his younger sibling at the beginning, but I was. He became more tolerable toward the end of the book – particularly with the ending being what it was. William annoyed me at the beginning, especially around Clara, but again, he grew on me as the story went on. Don’t even get me started on Clara herself – I don’t think I’ve wanted to slap someone so much since meeting Bella Swan.
As with the plot, I felt like I might as well be back in the Inkworld. And I quite like the Inkworld, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel new or different. It was a different world, but there were barely any changes. A queen was on the throne rather than a king. The magic was slightly different, the creatures slightly different, but the feel remained the same. It was still enchanting and magical and dangerous, but simply not new. If you haven’t read Inkheart or its sequels, you may very well be taken with it. If you have, you may, like me, think that it’s getting a bit old. Or you may not think it’s the same at all – this could very well be my interpretation.
Of course, everything was richly described and therefore did give off that magical feel. I loved seeing the creatures and fairytales and felt it was all pulled together well. It just didn’t seem as original as it could have been. I almost would have preferred if Jacob and the rest hadn’t come from our world, but rather lived in the other. I think it could have been done that way perfectly easily and would have taken away some of the annoyances I had with the characters.