Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart is a thoroughly amusing children's story about bleedover between fiction and reality. It is a bit repetitive, and since it's so long, I felt that this looping could have been condensed and lose very little from the story, but overall, it's an enjoyable read. I could see particularly bookish children coming out of this reading themselves blind trying to make words come alive off the page.

Meggie (and yes, it tickled me to have a main character with a name so close to my own, although I much prefer the full version to any shortening) has been brought up by her father, who mends books for a living. They live a peripatetic lifestyle, often packing up and moving on at the drop of a hat. When Meggie is (wait, how old is she? Between 10 or 12, I would guess) older, she and her father move on again, but pick up a companion named Dustfinger, who has a pet marten that Meggie could swear had horns. Mo, her father, claim they're glued on. Meggie's not so sure.

As the story progresses, Meggie eventually is confronted with the idea that Dustfinger is a character from a book, and not the only one loose in our world. Her father has the uncontrolled gift of summoning realities from fictions, and unfortunately, who he brought over was the nastiest villain in a book called Inkheart. (It is called that, right?) And some of his compatriots. The gift is not without its other costs - something must be called into the book to replace what has come out, and that something was Meggie's mother.

The villain, Capricorn, wants Mo's power to use as his own, to call forth treasure from books, and other villains to swell his ranks. He doesn't believe that the power is uncontrolled, and captures Meggie, Mo, and Meggie's mother's aunt, Elinor and brings them to a small village he controls in Italy. The rest of the book is around their struggles not to give Capricorn what he wants.

And this is where I found it got a little repetitive. They evade capture, are caught, escape, are caught, some escape again, some are caught again, and this goes on or just a little too long. It feels like these cycles could have been easily condensed, so we weren't retreading the same ground quite so many times. It's not a huge problem, but this is quite a long book, and it would have been nice if it were a bit tighter. If those loops seemed essential, that would be a different matter, but they don't.

But there is a lot here to like. It's a good story, the villain is excellent, and the solution that Meggie and the author of Inkheart come up with is quite satisfying. I wouldn't hesitate to give this to children to read, but at the same time, it doesn't leave me eager to find more by the same author to read myself.

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