Inkheart / Cornelia Funke

Genre: Fantasy
Main characters: Mortimer “Mo” Folchart, Meggie Folchart, Elinor Loredan, Dustfinger, Capricorn
Time and place: I’d say 2000-something, Italy?
Summary: Meggie is twelve years old and lives with her father, Mo, the “book doctor”. All she knows about her mother is that she went away on a journey when Meggie was three, but that doesn’t bother her too much since she shares a special relationship with her father: they both love books, they both love stories, they laugh a lot together, in a word they are happy.

One night Meggie notices a strange guy under their window and alerts her father. To her surprise, Mo actually knows the guy and invites him in. Later on, Meggie hears them whispering together and there are a lot of things she doesn’t understand, something to do with a warning and with a particular book. To her surprise the very next day she has to live school as her father takes her and the stranger to visit an aunt Meggie didn’t even know existed. What are they running from? Why does the stranger call Meggie’s father Silvertongue?

In Inkheart there are two categories of characters: real ones (Mo, Meggie, Elinor, and Fenoglio) and let’s call them imaginary as they were born out of someone’s imagination (Dustfinger, Farid, Capricorn, his mother and his men). Interestingly enough they can also be characterized according to the group they fall in. For example the real ones, without and exception, love books. They love reading and love losing themselves in the world of books — and I have loved them because of that, of course, but from the feelings’ point of view they are all perhaps a wee bit flat (although this being a children’s book this is not that much of an issue). My favorite characters were “the others”, especially Dustfinger and Farid. Poor Dustfinger, having to stretch the limits of his courage, and Farid, happy to be out of his own world, perhaps unconsciously seeking a father figure. As for the negative characters, I cannot very well judge them as they were thought out to be villains in a children story: bad, perhaps a bit frightening, but never actually doing anything more than uttering threats. Not that I complain about this in the least, I am not that fond of blood/killings :)

I was fascinated by the world created by Ms. Funke. My favorite idea of them all was that of a world living inside the pages of every book — such as the world Dustfinger came from. While the actual written words always remained the same, the world behind them was alive and changing, people (beings actually) able to move from (and to it) to (and from) the world of the reader. I had a small qualm with that (SPOILER One can argue that well, since the printed words were always the same, how could Darius have read Meggie’s mother back out since she wasn’t mentioned in the story END SPOILER) but on the whole I find it a novel and great idea.

I have loved the title of the book (still do actually) ever since first hearing about it and what the book is about. Inkheart – the word alone makes me think of life brought forth from the printed page, hearts made out of ink. Somewhere in the book we are told about yet another meaning the word could have, one that has completely slipped my mind. As Fenoglio says about his own book: “Its title is Inkheart because it’s about a man whose wicked heart is as black as ink, filled with darkness and evil.”

Were I to choose a motto, a quote from the book that represents it (or my feelings had while reading) best, it would have to be this:
To think of all the times I’ve wished I could slip right into one of my favorite books. But that’s the advantage of reading — you can shut the book whenever you want.
Some of the truest words ever written :P

Come to think about it, I find it a great idea to write a book about people who very much love reading and books in general. That because, statistically speaking, a lot of the readers are themselves people who very much love reading and books in general, thus making it easier for them to relate to the character, understand them and care for them. I for one was utterly charmed every time Meggie and her aunt Elinor were seeking comfort between the pages of a book (every time reverence towards book was mentioned, actually, I can relate to it all too well) :)

What I liked most: The very idea of people who can bring the printed words (and worlds) to life. Can there be a more magnificent gift? (Well, at least in theory, given that the creatures brought forth from books were almost always longing for their own world). As Meggie put it:

“I wish I could do that, her thoughts had kept saying to her, very quietly. The wish had settled like a cuckoo in the nest of her heart, where it kept fluffing up its plumage and making itself at home, no matter how hard she tried to throw it out. I wish I could do that, it whispered. I’d like to bring them out of books, touch them, all those characters, all those wonderful characters. I want them to come out of the pages and sit beside me, I want them to smile at me, I want, I want, I want…”

That is precisely how I felt at times while reading :)

What I liked least: I don’t like when I read about fantasy worlds whose “laws” change mid-story. A fantasy world does bend reality, of course (that’s why it’s called fantasy) but it nevertheless has to obey some laws (like our laws of physics) in order to make for a captivating book (otherwise, if anyone could do anything at any given moment, there wouldn’t be much suspense involved). In a way that is my problem with this book: it starts out in a world very similar to ours only book characters can be whisked out of books, but never in. All of the sudden, about mid-book, the rules change and now the characters can be read back into their books. Um, how come? What brought this change? The simple act of Fenoglio rewriting half of a story shouldn’t have affected Meggie’s capabilities in any way. Not to mention that, later on, Meggie can also make events happen with her reading, a bit of a stretch from the initial idea. This part was sort of a letdown for me, a pity because I was enjoying the book tremendously until then.

And a wee bit SPOILER:
The whole sending things/people back capability was given to Meggie but never used again, after her initial success. Amazing considering the sheer amount of fairy creatures that end up in our world. I would have expected the author to use the device to send back poor homesick Dustfinger, in the first place, but also Tinker Bell, the other fairies, the glass people and the rest. If you ask me it would have been a lot better if that particular “sending back” moment shouldn’t have existed, since it’s not only against the rules of the story but it doesn’t add anything to it either.
END SPOILER

Recommend it? Yes. I loved it so much that, as the story unfolded, I kept scolding myself for not reading it sooner. :)

This book is followed by:
Inkspell
Inkdeath

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5 thoughts on “Inkheart / Cornelia Funke

  1. It’s been a while since I read this book, but you raise a very good point, Kay, about the changing of rules and the ending of the book.

    I liked this book when I read it but wasn’t swept off my feet by it. I haven’t yet tried the rest of the books in the series and haven’t decided if I well. I kind of hope you will get a start on them so I know if I should! Haha

    Great review!

  2. I was incredibly swept off my feet by it at first :) Later on it did disappoint me a bit, but yes, I do plan to read Inkspell and Inkdeath sometimes soon. Inkspell is about the third in the pile right now, as I really want to read The Princess Bride before it — all the quotes in Inkheart made it seem like a very promising book :)

  3. Pingback: The Princess Bride / William Goldman « Kay’s Bookshelf

  4. Pingback: Inkspell / Cornelia Funke « Kay’s Bookshelf

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