Jacob Reckless is pretty pissed that his father has abandoned him, his mother, and younger brother. Understandably so, since his mother is sick, and his brother is kind of a wuss and follows him around all the time. Jacob is sure that he can find a clue in his father’s study that will help him understand—but finding a mirror that leads to another world wasn’t what he expected.
We aren’t privy to the details of the next several years, but it’s safe to say that Jacob spends more time in the mirror than in his actual reality. So it should come as no surprise to him when Will follows him through the mirror and into the fairytale world. We haven’t learned much about either one of the characters at this point, but even so it’s pretty apparent that Will is a drip. True to character, he gets seriously injured in about ten seconds. And it’s not a good, normal injury, where you could just use some ace bandages. Nope, Will has been fatally scratched by a Goyle—a race of men made out of stone. Now, unless Jacob finds a cure (hint, there isn’t one) his brother will become a Goyle himself, forgetting his former life and living only to kill humans and mine precious rocks.
Meanwhile, the Goyle’s king, Kami’en, instructs his number one soldier, Hentzau, to find Will (obvi he doesn’t call him by his name). Kami’en’s mistress, the Dark Fairy, dreamed that there was a human turning into a jade Goyle, who would make the king immortal.
Events are further complicated by the arrival of Will’s girlfriend, Clara, who somehow finds her way through the mirror. Saddled with his useless-turning-to-stone brother, said bro’s gf, and his best friend, Fox (she is literally a fox, except for sometimes when she is a girl. I picture her as sort of a Furry) Jacob leads a quest to find a cure for Will. The best part of this book is the assortment of fairytale paraphernalia that creeps up. In this world, Jacob is a treasure hunter, and he regularly goes on quests to find things like glass slippers or magic keys. Funke embraces all that is macabre and disturbing about fairytales—the witches that eat children, the trees that will grab you if you get too close, or most terrifying, the Tailor, who’s hands are made of scissors and needles, and who makes his clothes from his victims skin. The world beyond the mirror, is a magic world where everything can kill you (there are even killer unicorns, which I know my fellow bloggers here at Rampant are particularly fond of).
Jacob is single-minded in his task to reclaim his brother, even after Will turns completely Goyle and starts beating him up, or after Jacob is attacked by snakes or tortured by scorpions. That kind of devotion is hard to find, especially when you are jonesing after your brother’s girl (I don’t understand why Jacob would choose a nurse over a shape-shifting fox, but then again, the fox might be thirteen, and Jacob might be thirty, the ages are never mentioned and the details in that department are a little too vague for me to decipher). Regardless, Jacob manages to turn his brother back, and return him and Clara back to the mirror. Unfortunately, in the next book, he better find a cure for himself, or he’ll die within the year. Exciting! Also, we find out that his father taught the Goyle most of what they know about engineering, weaponry, etc. So I’m guessing that his father is still alive somewhere in this land and Jacob will meet him again. Funke hasn’t revealed the sequel date or any info yet, so I’ll just have to wait. And probably read a lot of Boxcar Children in the interim.