Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Posted February 11, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

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Inkheart

Inkheart

by Cornelia Funke

Series: Inkworld #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press on September 23, 2003
Genre: Adventure, Books About Books, Fantasy, Magic
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC
Content Warnings: Animal Death, Death, Kidnapping

Rating: ★★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

12 year-old Meggie lives with her father, Mortimer, a bookbinder. Mo never reads stories aloud to Meggie because he has a special gift: when he reads a book aloud, the characters come out of the book and into the real world.

One night, when Meggie was a small child, Mortimer was reading aloud from a book named Inkheart when an evil villain named Capricorn, his aide Basta, and a fire-eater named Dustfinger escape from the book and into their living room. At the same time, Mo's wife Resa gets trapped within the book .

Twelve years later, Capricorn is on a hunt to find and destroy all copies of Inkheart and use Mo's abilities to gain more power for himself in the real world. Meggie discovers her father's secret and, along with the help of Dustfinger and Meggie's eccentric aunt Elinor, fights to free her father and destroy Capricorn.

 

I have always been utterly transported by the story of Inkheart.  The magic and simplicity of Cornelia Funke’s ideas makes me feel as though I could never be a successful writer because of how creative and clever she is, and also, sometimes it feels like all the very best stories are taken.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

Sure, Inkheart isn’t perfect.  For one, at about 550pgs., it is far too long.  The pacing is quite slow and our characters spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting and worrying about things.  For that, I’m not sure if Funke is to blame, or if there’s something to the translation that is more exciting in German.  The writing weaves and tarries and wonders before moving on to anything truly interesting, and Meggie spends at least 50% of this book in a prison cowshed, being dragged back and forth and fretting and being sad and lonely.

She’s also a bit… flat, I guess.  Not underdeveloped, but unresponsive.  There are a great many magical things happening around her, but she takes these in stride, emotionally.  As such, things from her POV are generally a bit blah, even though there is magic afoot and they shouldn’t be blah.  But then again, I have never cared for Meggie.  Every POV is more interesting than Meggie’s.  And, in my opinion, the very best character is Elinor.  Because there’s nothing like an ordinary person with a deep love of something she knows cannot be real…. getting to fall into something she’s only ever dreamed of.  Besides, Elinor is bright and brave and deeply interesting, especially in her belief that she is not special when in fact she often steals the moment.

Inkheart is one of those rare books for me where I am here for the world and the story.  How wonderful, how incredible would it be to read a book aloud and taste the words on your tongue and be able to draw characters out of the pages?  Even though this magic is laden with consequences, it’s just… the very idea, you know?  This is the same sort of magic that enchants me about The Eyre Affair, even though these are very different books.  It’s the magic I love so much in this trilogy, for whatever faults it may have otherwise.

As a children’s book (although these days, I’d call it YA… it was simply published before YA was a thing), this is long and complicated, but it is so, so worth it.  Funke has an incredible imagination that I envy, and her world is so intricate.  There are some dark characters, although they may not seem so dark compared the way some villains are written today.  Of these, I think Basta is the best developed.

As the trilogy gets older, Inkheart is more often overlooked as there are newer, shinier books to read.  In my opinion, this trilogy deserves to be a YA fantasy classic because it’s just the sort of story that is timeless and extraordinary and even though the reading it takes me a long time… it’s worth it.  It’s so worth it.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves secrets and magic and two worlds bleeding together and father-daughter stories and believes that our world could be just a little more fantastical.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

4.5 stars overall rating

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Inkheart Stays On The Shelf

This isn’t the sort of book I will pick up all the time.  Because of it’s pacing, it’s sort of a chore.  The good kind of chore, the kind you feel really accomplished when you’ve finished.  But Inkheart is one of those books that simply belongs on my shelf, a story that I want close at hand.  The type of story worth memorizing if Fahrenheit 451 ever came out in real life, you know?  That reason alone is enough to keep it.

The other reason is the sentimental value of the physical copy I own.  It’s a bit of an unwieldy library-bound edition… but it’s also twenty years old, and belonged to my brother because other than his name written inside the cover in sparkly green gel pen, it’s in perfect condition.  It’s one of the handful of sacred books that have been bouncing around with me since I was young, and it has earned it’s place in the inner circle.

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What book worlds and magic whisk you away so utterly that you are sad to see them go?  Most of the ones that do this for me are the books I read when I was younger and more impressionable, but I have found in recent years that Erin Morgenstern and V. E. Schwab do this too.  What about you?  Let me know in the comments!

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2 responses to “Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

  1. Ah yes, Elinor is a delight! The Inkheart books have been some of my favourites since I first read them almost 20 years ago now, you’ve made realize :O My friends at the time all thought Inkheart was terribly boring, which shocked me, haha. But you’re right the pacing is relatively slow. I think Inkspell is my favourite of the trilogy. (I think a fourth book is coming out next year?!)

    • Amber

      Oh my, a fourth book! :O Thanks for the head’s up on that, I had no idea! I love the *idea* of Inkheart so much (and I genuinely liked the movie, though my understanding is that it was poorly received?) so I push through. I have read Inkspell and liked that one a bit more. 😀