I read the reviews; I knew I wanted it. So I had to catch it from the other library that I don't normally go to, since my usual library didn't get it for a while.
This book in a nutshell:
Jacob Reckless discovered the secret of the mirror when he was young, right after his father had disappeared. On his first trip through to the strange, magical world on the other side, he gets his hand bitten by something. It doesn't dissuade him from returning... again and again and again.
The story opens with the disasterous results of his younger brother, Will, following him to the Mirrorworld. Jacob puts years of knowledge to the test as he tries to save his brother from the curse that is turning him into a monster. And it doesn't help that Will's girlfriend has shown up from Earth, curious about the secret that has absorbed the Reckless brothers for so long . . .
Reckless is beautiful and terrible, the world as dark as the cover of the book, the writing as heart-stopping as the action. I found myself reading this one at small group one Sunday night, eating my dinner while I turned pages with the other hand, until one particular situation was resolved.
The female characters don't get short shrift in this novel: there's Clara, Will's girlfriend; Fox, the shape-shifter girl from the Mirrorworld who follows Jacob around; the Dark Fairy, who has a history with Jacob; the Princess, showing surprising character in the end...
I find Jacob and Will's relationship to be quite meaningful. Recently, I've read several books that have this arrangment: the caring, emotionally sensitive brother and the callous, ruthless one; always loyal to each other. Despite having seen it several times, I think it's worth revisiting, and I'm not tired of it yet.
There's no shortage of excitement in this one. It's tense from the first, the tempo ratcheting up like a beating drum, as the situation becomes more desperate. Probably it'll be read in one sitting, so clear your day out!
I found it almost painful to see the chances slipping away, each plan of the characters thwarted, time running out. But it makes it nearly impossible to stop reading.
At the first page of every chapter are graphite illustrations, which I felt added a good deal to the book. It's a beautiful thing, perfectly designed to carry the story it does.
Sometimes I question the middle-grade rating for this one... there's some implied stuff between Jacob and the Dark Fairy, and a lot of violence, and some of the Mirrorworld creatures are downright chilling. Think Grimms' fairy tales, but darker in many ways. If I'd read this when I was ten or eleven, I think I would have felt out of my depth. But that isn't that I wouldn't have liked it. I probably would have.
I believe there will be sequels. At least, from the ending, there had better be sequels. It's not a cliffhanger, but there are unresolved issues. Google "Cornelia Funke Reckless blog tour" and you'll find the author(s) discussing many things, including sequels.
Age rec: There's no good reason why this should be restricted as a children's book. Young adults would enjoy it as well. I would say eight or nine as my bottom limit, ten or eleven being better.