Review. Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

Which passionate reader hasn’t once thought about how amazing it would be to live in the world of your favourite characters, or to communicate with them? Who hasn’t thought of making the story better, let your favourites survive and punish the bad guys in a way you see fit? In Inkheart, all that and more is possible. Inkheart is a book about you and me, a book about passionate readers with lots of books who find themselves in the strangest situations possible. Situations only possible in a book.

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.
Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can “read” characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie’s mother disappeared into the story.

I liked the basic premise of the story. Dustfinger, after so many years in our world, desperately trying to find his way back into the book where Mo read him from – Inkheart – has everything to make for an engaging story. Combine this with the inventiveness of the magical aspect of the book, and this could have well been a very gripping novel. Could have been, but it’s not.
For a story about how gripping a book can be and how it can draw you in and draw characters out, this book ironically didn’t do just that. I never felt the urge to read on, the ‘just one more chapter and I’ll stop’-sequence doesn’t apply here, for me. Part of this is due to the fact that I never really got a grip on the story. First of all, it takes a long while to get going and even when it’s going, the pace of the novel is pretty slow. This book is also riddled with description, even though it didn’t make for a better understanding or picturing of what was going on. A lot of words were used to tell little, I think, and I wouldn’t have minded if this book was a bit shorter.
the ‘just one more chapter and I’ll stop’-sequence
The way the plot evolves, though, was pretty good and near the end things got actually really exciting. I’m not too fond of how everything was wrapped up, but overall I was very satisfied with the latter part of the book. That is due to the fact that the latter half of the book has more of a focus on the villains, Capricorn and his mother, the Magpie. Where they were not scary in a way that they trouble your sleep, they made for very good villains and were able to bring a certain atmosphere which was very much to my liking.
The characters as a whole, however, were troubled. I never really connected to any of them and this is largely due to the fact that they are underdeveloped. I found it really hard to get a good understanding of everyone who was running around here and on top of that, I didn’t really like Meggie. She doesn’t really come across as a twelve-year-old and I didn’t really like the way she kept calling her father ‘Mo’. This is a very minor issue, but I found it strange for someone who supposedly loves her father very much, keeps referring to him in a detached way by calling him by his name like you would do with just any one. If I have to pick one character that I liked best, I would pick Elinor. It wasn’t love at first sight and she isn’t a character I would want to read out of a book, but I felt like I knew her the best and she provided some comical relief.
Well that’s fun…
As I mentioned before, the main thing that kept me from really liking this book is the writing. The world is really inventive and the story has the potential to be very engaging, but the pacing is just so slow and riddled with useless description that it took me forever to get through it. On top of that there are the titled chapters. See, I prefer a simple number to indicate a new chapter and I don’t think a fancy title is necessary. However, if you do title your chapters, to it without spoiling. A series where this was done very well is the Harry Potter series, where every chapter is titled but it’s a mere indication of what’s to come rather than a spoiler. In Inkheart, the titles are of the latter categorie. It just doesn’t encourage reading on when your characters are in danger and the next chapter reads ‘Elinor saves the day’. It just takes away all the fun of finding out how things will work out because only by reading the title you know that in the next ten pages, the characters will be saved by Elinor. Well that’s fun…
Next to the title, every chapter has a nice little drawing and a quote from an existing book. This accentuated the love-for-books idea and there were some pretty beautiful quotes in there. I do felt, and this is very personal, that they distracted me from the story. When I was in the story and came across a quote, I was pulled out of it again so I just stopped reading them and powered through them after finishing the book.

In the end, I’m really torn about this book. I liked it and thought the whole world was pretty imaginative, but I felt like it could have been even better. Still, despite its shortcomings, it was a nice read about books and people who love books. About you and me.

★ ★ ★

Read the magic yourself.

PS: The movie was a bit not so good. You might want to skip that one..

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