Very interesting concept and base characters, neither of which was explored as thoroughly as they deserved. The characterization, background, motivations and interaction of the characters, which begged for a rich and deep treatment, was scant. As a reader, you only ever scratched the barest surface of Jacob, a young boy who found a mirror in his father's study after said father left them. A mirror with another world contained within it. A dark world full of cruelty and magic, hatred and bigotry, wonders and horrors alike. Jacob kept this world to himself growing up, but one day his younger brother Will followed him and got himself into a fatal mess. We don't know why Will followed Jacob, why he would not go home nor how precisely he became infected.
In the mirror-world, there lives a race of creatures very like men, but made of stone called the Goyl. The Goyl are waging and winning a war against the human Empire. A fairy - the Dark Fairy - is the king of the Goyl's lover. She has created a spell to turn anyone that the Goyl claw into a Goyl. They become stone and forget the world of men. This is what happened to Will.
Then Clara, Will's girlfriend, somehow shows up. Oh, yeah. Their mum died and since she had no character nor presence throughout the story this does not really impact anything, but the hospital is where Will and Clara met. And there is Fox, the shapeshifter that Jacob rescued early in his forays into the mirror when she was just a girl.
Nothing has focus or clarity in its relation to each other. Ideas. Images. But never a full picture.
Ka'mien, the king of the Goyl. Why his obsession with humans? What did the Dark Fairy hope to gain by this? Why did Red ensnare Jacob? What was Jacob and Will's relationship after their dad left and Jacob started disappearing? And then we find out their dad had been helping the Goyl make their war machines, but where is he now?! We never find out and it is not ever really brought up again, though it is referenced that the reason Jacob was in the mirror world all these years was partially to search for his dad all along.
Then Jacob sends Will and Clara home once he manages to get Will cured, all the while knowing the price for Will's cure is his own death in a year's time. But perhaps... perchance Jacob can find a cure for that too in this land of curses and magic, betrayal and redemption....
Once upon a time, there was a boy who set out to learn the meaning of fear.
A very dark tale. Without a whole lot to recommend it. Especially as the characters were very difficult for me to to get to know and even harder to like. Jacob is a womanizer, having referenced dozens of dalliances with various women. He abandons his family to go off into the mirror-world. Will is perhaps even more difficult to know as the focus is Jacob. Also, Will seems largely unappreciative of Jacob's steadfast determination to save his brother, whatever the cost to himself. Agh.
This book could have been so amazing, so many great elements, but in the end I was more unhappy than anything else. No one in that wretched war won anything. Jacob wan a victory for his own soul - which was rather the whole point - but Will did not realize it for what it truly was. It was a lot of individuals too full of their own selfish loves and desires to be open to the possibility of something greater: hope, peace, real love. A son abandoned. A brother pushed aside. A heart grown cold and careless in its quest to never feel the pain and terror of love nor the crushing agony of betrayal by those you love ever again.
The elements from various fairytales, from Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Frog Princess, etc. were a nice touch.