Author: Cornelia Funke
Series: Inkworld Series, Book 1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: The Chicken House
This story is about the bookbinder Mo and his daughter Meggie, whose lives become an adventure one day. Mo is not an ordinary bookbinder. He has the magic talent to read aloud and call different objects or people from the books he reads. However this gift is too bitter since Mo has managed to read out the cruelest villain called Capricorn from a book called “Inkheart”, but also send Meggie’s mother to take Capricorn’s place in the story. The story picks up when Capricorn has adjusted himself to the new world and kidnaps Mo to use his talent for monstrous and criminal purposes.
Classification & Literary Class: “Inkheart” came as a rather generous present from my beloved friend Blogger Bellezza, who insisted I get my own copy. Thanks to her now I do and will cherish it. This is so to say my initiation in modern YA fantasy literature and I still can’t believe this is a rather new bestseller from the year 2003. It sounds like an already settled in classic to me like “Alice in Wonderland”. As everybody knows I really can’t continue a review unless I label the novel as a certain nuance of urban fantasy and in this case the right is fully mine, since pretty much we have extraordinary tales happen in an alternative and exact photo copy of Earth. But since this is a Young Adult title you can’t go without the typical Bildungsroman elements aka a coming of age story.
As far as age goes “Inkheart” is originally meant for the audience 10-15 year olds, but for the people, who regularly indulge their inner child it is like any other good read, exciting. There was a certain kind of joy reading this book that left you in that pure innocent state of being an excited small child. Skillful illustrations and excerpts from famous published works that act as summaries only strengthen the experience, while Funke enchants with her magnificent style and prose. 500 pages passed like nothing I have ever read.
Characters & Depth: Staying true to the age group, Funke approaches her characters in a more simplistic manner, though it is safe to say that characters don’t become two dimensional cardboard cutouts. It is also safe to assume that Meggie is the main protagonist and we see about two thirds of the story through her eyes. The curious thing with her character is that she experiences and learns about the world through the endless volumes of books she reads. Her inquisitive and curious nature has introduced her to the great woes and tribulations of heroes and introduced her to the dark side of the world, but books always sheltered her from really living the bad, so as the story progresses Meggie accepts the challenges throw at her and matures. This is an almost untraceable transition that feels so natural.
The rest of the characters are more like overall symptoms. Mo shows a bit less character growth, but is a positive constant father figure, whose devotion to his daughter is inspirational and endearing enough to stay a constant favorite to young readers alike. Dustfinger is the antihero so to say, who has dubious morals and betrays the protagonists for a chance to return to his own world. In the end though he has a change of heart and does the right thing. He is the embodiment of the idea “it’s never too late to do the right thing”. Meggie’s aunt Elinor is the archetype of all book addicts. Her devotion to books surpasses the need to be around people and she is numb towards the joys of life with people. As the story ends we see staggering 180 degree change as she begins to long to be amongst people like she never before had. Her character in my opinion is a reminder that it is too dangerous and lonesome to shut yourself only in the world of imagination.
Worldbuilding & Believability: Main worldbuilding here gravitates around the ability of Mortimer to read things and people out of and in books. This is like Newton’s third law of physics, perhaps the only one I know, that for every effect or force there is an equal counter effect or force. This equality in exchange from one plain to another is the key here. Whenever Mo has to read something out from a title, there is a price that has to be made and nobody knows what can disappear. This keeps the tension and the stakes high, plus the idea is quite cool. Many times I have had moments with novels, when I found myself wishing things out, but for better or for worse with no effect.
The second part of this gift is that it can be controlled. It works with any written word and as the book suggests a skillful writer can derail a current story and change its course or create a new one just as easily. The suggestion of ultimate power or creative freedom is mind boggling, but as shown quite risky and to be used with caution. “Inkheart” is a lesson in moderation and the ageless “With power comes great responsibility”, but done in a very entertaining and possibly most original manner.
The Verdict: To be honest I never expected that YA would be in my taste range. I still wouldn’t be comfortable with the genre as a whole, but the Inkworld series is one that must be read. For me experiencing something new every time is a way to keep out of the rut or fall into clichés, so if you are someone to enjoy a bit of diversity pick this one up. I will also be watching the movie soon enough.