10 June 2014

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Imagine it were possible to bring the characters from a book to life.  Not like when someone reads a book with such enchantment that the characters seem to jump off the pages and into the bedroom...but for real.  Imagine they could actually climb out of the pages and into our world.

Then, imagine if those characters brought their world into ours.

One cruel night, young Meggie's father, Mo, reads aloud from Inkheart and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room.  Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books.

Somehow, Meggie and Mo must learn to harness the magic that conjured this nightmare.  Somehow they must change the course of the story that has changed their lives forever.

This is Inkheart, a timeless tale about books, about imagination, about life.

Dare to read it aloud.

Here's the thing about this book: I've owned it for years.  (Upon reflection, I'm not sure how I came to own a copy.)  I've tried over the years to read this book because I knew it had had a strong run on the fame strip.  But I was bored with it.  I couldn't get more than thirty pages in.  But it was such a cool premise!  Why wasn't it working for me?  Well I wish I could go back in time because I would've put myself back several years and given my then-self a very swift kick in the pants.

Inkheart was a highly entertaining read, in the way that only good middle grade novels can be.  It possessed a diverse cast of well-developed characters, an exciting plot (that did pick up, I swear), and a writing style that is distinctive and enchanting.  And there was no romance to send everything to hell in a hand basket.

Meggie was a great main character: smart and inquisitive, but still a child and so had a sense of naiveté that did not, in any way, make her seem immature or childish.  She had the never-ending imagination and patience that only a younger person could possess.  I found myself instantly liking her.  Every character in Inkheart was painted with the same care, so that each was distinctive and memorable.

The plot was exciting because of these well-developed characters.  But I was shocked to see how violent and crass some of the more unsavory characters were.  Quite honestly, I was expecting it to be more benign, with a lot of smoke-blowing rather than detailed threats that the reader knew the bad guys could and would carry out.  But, as an older reader, these things only deepened my enjoyment of the story because it meant the author was pulling out all the stops.

Cornelia Funke didn't bog down the story by illuminating every word.  Her style was enchanting, but not flowery, which gave it a charming flexibility, able to switch between a touching scene between father and daughter to the sinister, death-filled thoughts of the featured assassin.

All in all, Inkheart was a brilliant opening to what I am sure will be an even more brilliant series.  Before I had even finished Inkheart I had gone out to my local bargain bookstore to pick up the sequel, Inkspell.  For the lovers of the Artemis Fowl series, the Ranger's Apprentice series, or any series of the Percy Jackson universe, I say this is a good next series to delve into.

Books have to be heavy because the whole world's inside them.
The books in Mo and Meggie's house were stacked under tables, on chairs, in the corners of the rooms. There where books in the kitchen and books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set and in the closet, small piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books old and new. They welcomed Meggie down to breakfast with invitingly opened pages; they kept boredom at bay when the weather was bad. And sometimes you fall over them.
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 534
  • published - 2003
  • publisher - Scholastic
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - ?
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Inkworld
    • Inkheart
    • Inkspell
    • Inkdeath