Following her extremely popular Inkheart series (also made into a film starring Brendan Frasier), Cornelia Funke comes up with another insightful take on the adult fairy tale. Drawing from classic tales such as 'Through the Looking Glass', 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'Rapunzel' as well as various other fairy tales, this story is fast paced and enchanting.
Jacob Reckless has been going through the mirror for years. He knows the world behind it almost better than his own - he even calls it home. But now everything has changed. His brother has followed him though and has been clawed by a ferocious Goyl, whose stony skinned race are slowly taking over the land. Jacob will try anything to save his brother, but this world isn't making it easy.
This book is reminiscent of a few other writers works who have tried their own interpretations of fairy tales. Perhaps the most notable is John Connoly's The Book of Lost Things, whose world is also riddled with elements of fairy tales. Another notable writer is Gregory Maguire, whose retelling of The Wizard of Oz (Wicked) has been made into a successful theatre production.
However, this story has become its own with the great imagination of its author, who dreams up entire underground cities, as well as creature species and interesting characters. The fairy tales are entwined into it with sophistication and newer, scarier ones are told in their stead. Knife-fingered men lurk in the forests, ready to make your skin into clothing. Gingerbread houses are so alluring they lull their trespassers into a soothing sleep, locking the gate behind them.
The plot is a great credit to Cornelia Funke, as many fairytale based stories can get too lost in their original forms. Here, she creates a set of entirely new heroes and villains to build her world around, and includes a rather good political plot as well as a few good twists. The characters, who are altogether very good, may not be entirely relatable. Jacob, for example, is rather aloof to begin with, which may cause the reader to warm to him less.
The story is centred around the themes of love - in a familial, friendly and romantic sense - and gives the reader a heartwarming idea of how the characters interest and feel about each other. The style is easy to read, almost too easy, as it is difficult to put it down.
It is clear that the book was meant for a teen and adult audience who are more than familiar with the fantasy and fairy tale genres. If this sounds like you, then this book will be just the thing you may be looking for. It deserves a 9 out of 10.
The sequel, Fearless, is out in 2013.