The Golden Yarn by Cornelia Funke. ★★★★
The Golden Yarn is the third book in the highly enjoyable Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke. The prior books are Reckless and Fearless, and I recommend reading them prior to The Golden Yarn. I really loved Fearless when I read it a couple of years ago, and I think my expectations for The Golden Yarn were possibly too high. Not that The Golden Yarn is a bad book by any means – it just didn’t inspire the furor that would cause me to give it a five star review.
The premise of the series is that there exists another world from which many of our fairy tales and myths come. Jacob Reckless, a twenty something American, has been traveling through an enchanted mirror and exploring this magical world since childhood. This fairy tale land has not gone unchanged since the days of the stories origins and is being shaped by war and industrialization. There’s fairies, but also trains and early automobiles.
The industrialized fairy land is one of my favorite fictional worlds. There’s a depth and darkness to Funke’s creation that makes it one of the best I’ve ever seen. To often fantasy settings feel static and changeless, but Funke’s feels vibrant and alive. It also feels broad and expansive, and I liked that The Golden Yarn journeyed farther east than previous installments, taking us to an alternate version of Russia.
Something I’ve loved about the previous two books is how sympathetic the antagonists were. Nerron, Kami’en, and the Dark Fairy continue to be as beguilingly likable as ever, despite the actions they take against our lead character. In particular, the Dark Fairy is tragically compelling, and possibly not even an antagonist at all by The Golden Yarn. A newer antagonist was introduced in Fearless and is very important for the events of The Golden Yarn. At this point, I believe that he will be the main villain for the whole series.
“It was hard to let go of love. Once woven, its ribbon was hard to tear, and this one she’d woven quite firmly herself.”
Thematically, I believe The Golden Yarn to be about romantic love. Fox and Jacob’s relationship been shifting towards romance over the course of the series, and it becomes ever more important here. Meanwhile, the Dark Fairy’s relationship with Kami’en has fallen apart after he rejected her for his human wife.
For a final reason to love The Golden Yarn, each chapter is headed by an illustration drawn by Cornelia Funke herself:
When I examine why I might have liked The Golden Yarn less than Fearless, I can think of a number of potential answers. Possibly there were too many POV shifts which impacted the pacing. Maybe it’s that The Golden Yarn feels less like a self contained story and more like set up for additional books. I also think that Clara was thrown under the bus here, and I’ll be peeved if everyone totally forgets about her.
Despite those quibbles, I still loved returning to this series and would recommend it.