Showing posts with label Cornelia Funke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cornelia Funke. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Igraine the Brave written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke


Rating: WORTHY!

Written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, this tells the story of Igraine, who is the younger of the two children of Sir Lamorak (which sounds a bit like caramel backwards!) and Lady Melisande. The parents are fine magicians and are proudly raising their magician-in-training son, Igraine's older brother, Albert. Igraine though, has no interest in magic. Enamored of the life lead by one of her grandfathers, Igraine longs to be a knight. It's soon to be her birthday and her parents are working long and hard on a magical gift for her - a magical, lightweight suit of armor - which she longs to see, but is not allowed.

As her patience wears thin, doing her chores around the aged and slightly crumbling castle, such as feeding the water snakes and cleaning the stone lions and gargoyles which help protect her home, Igraine learns of unexpected developments in their neighborhood, namely: the disappearance of their neighbor, and the usurpation of her power by her unscrupulous nephew, who now has designs on the magical singing (and talking) books owned by Igraine's parents. These cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy, but Igraine's parents are confident they can repel any attack from Osmond the Greedy.

This all turns around when, in process of adding a finishing flourish to Igraine's armor, the parents accidentally turn themselves into pigs. Worse, they are out of giant's hair, which is essential to turning them back into humans. Since Albert must remain to guard the castle, being in the only functional magician left, it falls upon Igraine to go get the giant hairs. Why these hairs could not be summoned by magic is. I think, a good question, and one the author didn't see fit to address!

Igraine sets off alone, and eventually finds the giant, Garleff, who happily gives some hairs because Igraine's parents were very kind to him. On her way back, she visits the Sorrowful Knight, aka Sir Urban of Wintergreen, who is pretty much in an isolated sulk because he failed to beat the evil "Hedgehog," Osmand's henchman, in a joust. Somehow, this sulker is the guy who teaches Igraine about chivalry! Go figure!

He decides to accompany Igraine back to the castle to make sure she get home safely and ends up challenging Rowan Heartless (aka the Iron Hedgehog because of his spikey armor). On the way back they encounter a three-headed dragon. I am not at all sure why this bit was put in. I thought the dragon might be connected with the disappearance of three princesses, or that it might come help them fight the usurper, but it just disappeared. Maybe the author forgot about this plan? Maybe there was no such plan.

Likewise, I'm not sure why such a big deal was made of Igraine's desire to be a knight, and her special armor, because at no point does she enter into a fight of any kind, or put the armor to any test other than getting it wet (and it doesn't rust). Maybe the author has some plan she forgot as she wrote this, or maybe her plan changed. It just seemed odd; however, Igraine was strong in other ways, and so this is why I liked her. To me a strong female character isn't necessarily one who can kick your ass, she just has to be kick ass, and Igraine was.

Obviously Igraine wins-through in the end. I liked the story and I recommend it, despite it being somewhat bland. I had hoped for more. I'm not sure why this was so lacking in some respects, but it was amusing and entertaining, and this is why I consider it a worthy read.

It's worth noting that this story is bears some references to Arthurian tradition. Igraine was supposedly the name of King Arthur's mom. Maybe this Igraine grew-up and married, and her offspring became England's legendary king? (or a Welsh hill tribesman, depending on how much legend you swallow!)? Who knows?! Melisande is a Germanic name, also found in other languages, meaning strength, and was the name (in the form of Melisende) of the Queen of Jerusalem in the mid-twelfth century. Sir Lamorak was a knight of Arthur's purported 'Round Table', and Albert was, of course, the name of the German who married Queen Victoria!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reckless by Cornelia Funke


Title: Reckless
Author: Cornelia Funke
Publisher: Random House
Rating: WARTY!

The second volume in this series is reviewed elsewhere on my blog.

I seem to have a finely-honed skill for picking up a novel that looks interesting and getting it home only to discover that it's part of a series, and it's also not the first in the series. This seems to happen almost routinely with audio books - which are not, in my experience, known for being very forthcoming in this regard (or in any useful regard for that matter).

Anyway, that's what happened here. Fearless is volume 2 in a series referred to as 'Mirrorworld", and which begins with Reckless and ends with Heartless - which is a terribly foreboding title given the subject of volume two! The problem here is that telling me that a volume is a "Mirrorworld novel" is not the same thing as telling me that it's 'Mirrorworld #2'! Big Publishing™ doesn't seem to get simple niceties like that. As Kristen cashore showed admirably with her Graceling and Fire, and Bitterblue series, you can have three novels in the same world, none of which is necessarily or critically dependent upon the others for enjoyment. They're in the same world, and are sequential in a sense, but they're not three episodes of the same story.

All this to explain why the only reason I picked up this novel after reading its sequel, Fearless, unintentionally out of order (and disliking it), was that I very much liked the character of Fox. I wanted to learn of her origins, and of how she and Jacob got together, but after starting the second novel feeling not so much like I was stepping into the middle of things, I started the first novel feeling like this was at least the second in a series and I'd missed the previous volumes! How weird is that? And it told me squat about Fox. Thanks for wasting my precious life, mother Funke.

So yes, the biggest problem I ha with this volume was that I was really disappointed to discover that the entire Fox encounter had been completely bypassed! The first few pages deal with Jacob and Will when they were kids and Jacob first discovered the mirror through which he could pass into an alternate fairy-tale reality. Right after that, a dozen years pass in nothing more than a chapter header, and all the fun stuff has gone by. Instead of finding Jacob and Will exploring the Mirrorworld together and carrying us along with them, Will is already vicariously cursed by Bad Fairy via a Goyl, and is in process of turning into stone, and Jacob is a grown man, already partnered with Fox and searching for a cure. In short, this novel is exactly like the second one, no Wills, very little Fox, and Jacob running around like a headless chicken. I have to say I was truly disappointed.

Both novels make a big deal about Jacob entering this mirror world to track down his father, but at no point in either novel is he ever actually engaged in this pursuit! We get a plethora of references to fun fairy-tale things which Jacob has discovered in his forays, and nary a mention of his forlorn pursuit of dad. That was just dumb. For that matter, we're never treated to any stories of Jacob actually recovering any of these fun fairy-tale items we're repeatedly told he's collected. That's where Funke screws this up.

This novel was really precisely like it's successor (or that precisely like this) in that the only thing Jacob is engaged upon in both volumes is pursuit of a cure. In this volume, the cure is for his brother, and in the next volume the cure is for himself since he screwed up curing his brother and ended up being cursed himself. How many volumes of Jacob the screw-up can one person be expected to read? Well, I exceeded my limit at one and then foolishly went back for another hoping that it would entertain me and allow me to meet a really cool character. But once again I was disappointed. I'm done Funke-ing around with this author.


Fearless by Cornelia Funke


Title: Fearless
Author: Cornelia Funke
Publisher: Random House
Rating: WARTY!

Audio book Read by Elliot Hill. I review volume one in this trilogy elsewhere on my blog.

You know when I see a novel on the shelf and it says "A Mirrorworld story" that doesn't automatically convey to me that it's part of a sequential series for which you'd be well-advised to track-down volume one before you embark upon any others - and especially not if that same cover doesn't say "Mirrorworld #2" or something along those lines.

What such a note implies to me is that it's set in the same world as other volumes. It implies something like Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire, and Bitterblue, where the stories take place in the same world, but you can read them in any order and it makes no difference to your enjoyment. That's a world. If you're going to make them sequential then you really need to put something on your cover to indicate that!

Not that it really mattered here, to any tragic extent, but the bottom line is that words do matter, and I find it as disheartening as it is mind-boggling that the very people who ought to have the best handle on this - novel writers - are so evidently blind to the power and value of words. OTOH, writers typically have nothing whatsoever to do with their covers unless they self-publish, so I guess it comes right back down to Big Publishing™ being one of the most ass-backward, clueless, restrictive, unimaginative and monumentally screwed-up rats' nests of our time.

I'm not a fan of trilogies. Authors and publishers love them of course because it's the easiest and laziest way to milk money from the public, but I think they're way overdone and merely serve to stretch out a novel which could have been related quite thrillingly (or at least satisfactorily) in one volume, into something that's unwieldy and often frustrating or even boring. Case in point, the volume under scrutiny right here.

I was rather less than impressed with this volume. Clearly there's a history that you miss when entering this without reading volume one, but I really didn't feel like it was a hindrance - like I was missing anything. There was a lot of referencing of vol 1, but there didn't seem to be any understanding of what was going on here which was stymied (yes, stymied!) by my not having been there and done that. This story could be taken as a stand-alone.

The problem I had with it was that it was overly long, and rather dense, tedious, and rambling. I didn't like the main character, Jacob at all. He seemed too preoccupied and self-centered. Yes, he had some reason to be given his condition, but even so! Jacob is obviously a Grimm who isn't called Grimm (though that's precisely what he is: grim), but who is called Reckless for reasons which go unexplained here (and in the previous volume).

Jacob's problem is that he carries a dark fairy curse in the visible form of a moth on his chest - one which is in process of eating his heart out in six bites (one for each letter of the fairy's name), after which it will fly away taking his life with it. I have no idea what this means. Clearly it isn't literally eating his heart because after a couple of bites he would bleed out and die. Nonetheless, the moth sits there looking like a tattoo, garnering for itself a new wing-spot with each slow bite it takes, and engendering ever more pain as it eats. Dark fairies love them some pain, evidently.

My problem is that I didn't care. I initially thought that maybe I would have cared had I read the first volume, but no - I went back and read the first and was just as disappointed and disillusioned with that as I was with this one. This volume is what I have to deal with. Indeed, the only character I enjoyed and cared about was Jacob's companion Celeste, referred to as Fox for most of the story. She's a human who was evidently granted the ability to become a Vixen. Jacob met her in vol 1 when she was hardly more than a child, and he rescued her from a trap when she was in her fox form. Since then they've been companions.

Fox I found really intriguing, but she gets hardly any air-time here. Instead we get all Jacob all the time, pretty much, searching fruitlessly for a solution to his problem, running out of options, and largely ignoring everyone and everything else, including Fox. He doesn't even tell her what his problem is, so how close can they be? Yet Funke expects us to buy that there's a budding romance here.

Being a Grimm, sorry, a Reckless, Jacob has a brother named Will. Will had a curse upon him that Jacob saved him from in vol 1, by speaking the dark fairy's name, hence his own curse. The fact that Will isn't even in this story (I don't count the brief encounter at the beginning), and that his brother is dying, struck me as callous at best and evil at worst on Will's part. He evidently doesn't know about Jacob's curse - I guess he's thinks he was magically saved, but how close can these brothers be if they don't share these things? How dumb is Will exactly that he thinks his salvation cost nothing?

Both novels make a big deal about Jacob entering this mirror world to track down his father, but at no point in either novel is he ever actually engaged in this pursuit! We get a plethora of references to fun fairy-tale things which Jacob has discovered in his forays, and nary a mention of his forlorn pursuit of dad. That was just dumb. For that matter, we're never treated to any stories of Jacob actually recovering any of these fun fairy-tale items we're repeatedly told he's collected. That's where Funke screws this up.

I quickly tired of Jacob's non-stop wandering, poking around, and his endless failures. I could not become enamored of the story, and I have no desire to read volume three. Curiously, however, I was impressed enough by Fox that I decided I wanted to read volume one to learn her story, but while I'm reckless enough to do so, I'm not fearless. I fear that it will not impress me any more than this volume did. Is that heartless? As it happened, volume one tells us nothing of her either, so that was a waste of time, too.