Review Revisited: Cornelia Funke – Inkheart
Length: 548 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Started: 17 March 2007 / 31 December 2008
Finished: 28 March 2007 / 03 January 2009
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Been on my re-read pile since I heard there was a movie coming out, and particularly since I finished Inkdeath in November.
Verdict? Better on a re-read; still a keeper.
Summary: Twelve-year-old Meggie lived her life surrounded by books – her father, Mo, is a bookbinder, and there’s never been a time when books haven’t been her friends and companions. But there’s one book that’s different… Inkheart. For Mo’s voice has the power to read characters out of their books, and when Meggie was young, he accidentally read three characters out of Inkheart – and read Meggie’s mother into the book. When the mysterious fire-breather Dustfinger shows up again one rainy night, warning her father that the villain Capricorn wants Mo’s copy of Inkheart, they must run, for Capricorn not only wants to gather all remaining copies of Inkheart, but also wants Mo’s voice for his own purposes… and Capricorn always gets what he wants.
Original Review: This was a book that I think suffered because it couldn’t decide what age bracket it was for. The concept – that there are people with the ability to read characters out of their books and into the real world (and vice-versa) – is fascinating, and the characters Funke creates are memorable and multi-faceted. However, it felt like it skewed slightly more juvenile than I would have hoped. A lot of the intricacies of what it means to be read out of your story, and the metaphysics of how much of a story exists beyond the book, etc. were not explored in enough detail, if at all. Similarly, most of the characters’ multi-dimensionalities weren’t really expounded upon, just hinted at and then dropped (in particular, Dustfinger, Farid and the author Fenoglio, but to some extent for everyone).
It also felt as if it were way too long for the age group it was geared towards – it seemed like there were many, many repetitions of the good guys a) being threatened by Capricorn’s men, b) being taken to Capricorn’s village, c) enduring confinement, and then d) escaping. In retrospect, that cycle didn’t happen that many times to any one character, but the combining and re-combining of which good guys were in danger at any one point made it feel repetitive and longer than it should have been. So, overall, interesting concept, and charming story and characters, and a good book for people who love reading, but it felt like not enough depth and/or not enough action to keep me invested for the whole time. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
On a re-read: This book definitely improved on a re-read, especially after having read its sequels. Knowing more about the characters, and about the Inkworld, definitely helped flesh out a lot of the motivations in this book, and answered a lot of the questions I had the first time I read this.
It’s my understanding (although I can’t remember where I heard this, and may have made it up out of whole cloth) that Funke originally wrote Inkheart as a stand-alone, not as the beginning to a series. This may or may not be true, but having read the sequels, such seemingly innocent bits as Mo saying “You always liked robber stories, Meggie.” or a magpie sitting in the bushes outside Elinor’s house suddenly take on many more layers of meaning that I never would have picked up on a first read.
I agree with my original review that the cycle of capture/confinement/escape happens too many times (and, as a friend pointed out, the “Oh, we’re like at least five miles away from the bad guys, clearly we’ll be safe here.” attitude of the characters gets a little grating.) I also still think it doesn’t properly target its audience – its level of plot complexity is about right for middle-grade or youngish young adults, but its length, level of writing, and thematic complexity is more appropriate for older YA or adults.
Still, I really enjoyed re-reading it, and am tempted to bump its rating up to 4 stars, although I think that’s mostly due to the knowledge of what comes next in Funke’s world, not due to Inkheart‘s own merits. If you’ve read Inkheart and are feeling at all ambivalent, let me encourage you to keep going – the other books in the trilogy get more complex, have a wider world in which to explore, and are just fantastically absorbing – and worth slogging through the parts where Inkheart‘s a bit slow.
Other Reviews: A Life in Books, Things Mean a Lot, Muse Book Reviews, Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books, Nothing of Importance
Did I miss your review? (I know I must have missed some.) Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain.