Title: The Petrified Flesh
Author: Cornelia Funke
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Genre: Fantasy, Teen Fiction
Source: NetGalley eBook
I thoroughly enjoyed Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy when I was younger, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her Reckless series. This series was first released in 2010 with the book Reckless, but since then it has undergone a number of changes and Cornelia Funke, alongside Pushkin Press, has released an updated version of the trilogy, starting with the re-named The Petrified Flesh as the first book.
The series follows the adventurous Jacob Reckless as he discovers the Mirrorworld, reached by stepping through a mirror, where magic still exists alongside strange and wondrous creatures. Traces of his father, who stepped through the mirror before him, can still be found dotted around the world, while Jacob encounters a number of dangerous situations, and people.
The main story of The Petrified Flesh follows Jacob as he tries to find a cure for his brother, Will. Initially unaware of the Mirrorworld’s existence, Will followed his older brother through one day and found himself cursed with a spreading hand of stone. Other parties in this world are soon interested in Will’s curse and, together with Will’s girlfriend and a shape-shifting fox, Jacob struggles to protect him.
Everything about this plot worked for me. It allowed for the characters to be developed, it allowed for the world to be brought alive before my eyes and it kept me interested in the adventure throughout the entire novel. The dangers the characters faced were varied and came in different forms and the pacing allowed for plenty of action with enough breathing space for it not to be over-whelming. The fairy-tale-esque nature of the book was lovely to read, especially when it was subverted, as it allowed for a familiar, yet unpredictable story.
Each character in this book was unique and the main four complemented each other perfectly. I especially liked how Clara was treated in the book – despite being very new to the world, she was still a vital member of the team and contributed accordingly. The only one of the four who I struggled to get to know was Will which, while understandable given the circumstances, did make me struggle to appreciate the mission the other three were on. Fox, however, was a brilliant character and one I would be happy reading an entire novel about. While we don’t see much of her background, you do get the sense that there is plenty there and this gives her character plenty of depth and realism.
The secondary characters, and villains, also suited their roles and the world perfectly. No-one felt out of place and each was firmly rooted in their surroundings, which made the entire book seem more believable and enchanting. My main issue, however, was that while reading there felt like there was a glass wall between me and the events in the book – I could see everything perfectly, but I struggled to fully empathise with any of the characters, the sole exception being Fox, but then that took a while to occur.
That being said, the world I did see was phenomenal. Even now, after finishing the book, I can still picture it clearly in my mind’s eye. Everything was built up and felt real, from the magic to the political powers to the mystical beings that filled its pages. I really enjoyed the subtle ties to the fairy-tales in our world, for example the intertwining of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into the history of the world. Although, I did find myself pulled out of the story a little when Snow White was mentioned by name – it was a not-so-subtle reference that did come across a little forced at the time. Everything else about the world-building was perfect, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the combination of magic and technology that featured in The Petrified Flesh in the rest of the series.
The Petrified Flesh is a captivating fairy-tale story that will delight all readers – from children to adults. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought the world to be utterly thrilling. Jacob makes for an intriguing, yet sympathetic lead, while Fox is just simply a great character. This is a brilliant first book in a trilogy and I am very excited to see where the story is headed.
The Petrified Flesh, and its sequels, are out now.
The Book Depository (I get a small commission if you use this link): http://www.bookdepository.com/Reckless-I-The-Petrified-Flesh-Mirrorworld-Corneli-Funke-Oliver-Latsch/9781782691242/?a_aid=rosienreads