Book Review: Fearless by Cornelia Funke
When Jacob Reckless first found his way through the mirror in his father's study to a different world, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to him. Becoming a renowned treasure hunter and literally growing up behind the mirror, no longer the little boy who first found his way but a confidant young man. But after the events of Reckless, the first novel in the Mirrorworld series, Jacob is left battered and with a curse growing on the skin over his heart. Jacob's one and only thought in Reckless was to keep his younger brother, Will, safe after Will followed him through the mirror and ends up growing a skin of stone, evolving into a promised protector of a Goyl King (a society of beings created out of stone). The involvement of the Dark Fairy, the Goyl King's mistress, and the hatred her sister the Red Fairy bore Jacob for abandoning her, all combined in a curse that will be Jacob's death sentence. Unless he can find a way to undo it as he undid the stone skin that had stolen Will from him.
Now Jacob and his faithful friend Fox, a shape shifter, are racing against time to find a cure for Jacob's curse. The moth growing over his heart is stealing back the Dark Fairy's name that Jacob uttered in the first novel, every bite removing a letter from the name. With the final bite, the moth will tear itself free from Jacob's skin, sealing his fate and killing him. The blood of a Djinn from the North does him no good. Nor did any other remedy that he concocts. Until he learns of a crossbow that belonged to the wicked King Guismond who was also a Witch Slayer and a Warlock (A title earned only by those who drink the blood of witches. It gives you power, but also drives you mad). Legend has it that a bolt from the crossbow will not only kill the commander you aim for, but will also destroy the entirety of the commander's armed forces too. One bolt can bring down thousands. But it also has healing properties, for rumor also says that Guismond fired it at his dying son and instead of death, the son came back to life. Jacob has Fox, both woman and vixen, who loves him deeply. Could the crossbow work? It is his last hope.
But nothing is ever easy. To find the crossbow, Jacob must first find the hand, the heart, and the head of Guismond himself. Only when these pieces are rejoined to his body will Guismond's bewitched castle reappear in the place where it has been invisible for so many hundreds of years, concealing the crossbow. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems, whether Jacob and Fox are contending with contemptuous young princes, or Jacob's rescuing Fox from the mansion of an ancient Bluebeard, to say nothing of the Bastard, an onyx and malachite Goyl who is also a treasure hunter and is chasing after the crossbow himself. Time is running out for Jacob and the moth continues to bite his heart one letter at a time.
Oh my goodness. Some books are so hard to describe to others because they are just completely unique. Nothing else is like the Mirrorworld series. At least nothing that I've encountered so far. Cornelia Funke's name is likely familiar to those of you who've read the Inkworld novels, which are at least as brilliant as this series. I know that Inkworld has more readers than Mirrorworld, but that's okay. These books aren't written for children or even really teenagers. Jacob is in his twenties. Not a child and he doesn't have the same angst as a teen, which is probably why I love him so much. Magical realism that isn't YA fiction. How awesome is that?
I love how in Fearless, Jacob and Fox are dancing around being in love. They're building towards something beautiful. Technically, Fox is much younger than Jacob. She was a little girl when he saved her life when she was in fox form, but shape-shifters age so very faster than humans and so she's caught up with him. She has the mind and body of an adult now, probably a young woman in her early twenties, and her heart that belonged to Jacob as a child to a protector, now belongs to him as a woman. She loves Jacob through his weaknesses, though his sins, and she always welcomes him back. She's loved him, really, for years, but only now is Jacob realizing his feelings towards her have evolved. Mirrorworld has just that hint of romance, enough to satisfy, but not so overwhelming that it steals the story.
Remember how the Inkworld was just scary enough without being too scary? Well, Mirrorworld is that other level of scary. It's Cornelia Funke's way of upping her game, of taking fairy tales and making them her own, like the Tailor with his snapping scissors and his love of human skin in Reckless and like the Bluebeard and his collection of women in this novel. It's a scary world to be in, but I don't mind a little fear now and then. Our own world is scary in different way, in its unpredictability and its politics and its so very mundane lifestyle. So I use the Mirrorworld series to escape from the doldrums of real life, hopping into a world of magical realism to escape for just a few hours. I understand why Jacob found the Mirrorworld so much more compelling than his own.
Like him, I would have gone through the mirror and found it hard to come back.
I've owned the 3rd book in the series, The Golden Yarn, for quite a while, and even tried to read it, but it had been so long since I read Fearless that I was hopelessly lost. So now I'm well prepped for my foray into the 3rd novel by re-reading Fearless. Here's to a new adventure! ❤