The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Will Reckless' skin is turning to stone and his older brother Jacob is using all his treasure hunting skills to find a cure. Only, there is no cure. And more than that, Will's skin is turning to Jade - and in this world of fairy tales, the mythical Jade Goyl is the one who will protect the Goyl King from his human enemies.
Rather than a straight fairy tale setting, Funke gives us a portal/alternate earth fantasy - where Jacob has found access to an alternate earth filled with magic via the mirror in his missing father's study. The Petrified Flesh takes place only in one location (Austry), but as you continue on in the series, Funke makes it clear that many of the countries in this alternate earth correspond to real-world countries and their mythology. It's a brilliant set-up, affording Funke both a structure to follow whilst affording her the space to expand creatively, developing alternate histories and mythologies.
I'm somewhat conflicted about how to rate this book. I initially rated it 3 stars because The Petrified Flesh isn't an easy one to get into. It starts off in a light, classic fairy tale style, but the tone seems to shift the further along you get in the book as the story gets darker and darker. (It is a dark fantasy, after all.) On that first read, I found it rather choppy. Maybe it's the fact that it shifts POV almost from chapter to chapter and you never really get to know the characters in depth. The story doesn't quite pull you in for some reason. But I decided to re-read it after I finished book 4, just so I could review it with fresh eyes - and on the second read, I didn't really notice the "choppiness", and liked it much better. So I don't quite know what that initial thing was.
Despite it being book 1 of the Reckless/Mirrorworld series, the story is self-contained. Jacob sets off to solve the problem of Will's Goyl skin, he finds a solution. But the solution lends itself to another problem, which is what sets up Book 2 (Reckless II: Living Shadows) and the rest of the series.
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Pushkin Children's Books via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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