Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

I saw the trailer for the movie version of Inkheart that is coming out at the end of January when I was at the movies recently. I had no idea it was based on a book. The trailer looked so interesting that I went out and got the book. Even though it was a good 500+ pages, it is young adult fiction so I breezed through the book rather quickly. 

The premise is so fascinating. When Mo reads from a book, he can bring the characters to life. The catch is that when something from the literary world comes into the real world, something in the real world has to take its place in the book. When Mo’s daughter was three, he was reading to his wife from a rather rough fantasy book called Inkheart. Three grown men from the story appear while Mo’s wife, a futon, and a stuffed animal disappear from the living room. Mo goes into hiding, because the men he read out of the story are the very evil bad guys from the book, and he makes it his life work to try to read his wife back out of the book. The bad guys are after Mo because some of them want back into the book, while others want him to read out treasure from different stories. 

The first 100 pages of the book are pretty slow because none of this is mentioned until after page 100. But once the action finally starts going, it kept my attention and even had me reading past my bedtime one night. It is a very simple premise and I can see how some people reading it, expecting more than a young adult story, will say it’s too simplistic and cliche. (I’ve read some of the movie reviews saying that’s exactly what happens to the movie version.)

There are so many intelligent and beautiful analogies about stories, reading, writing, and the likes throughout Inkheart. I’ve heard the sequels to Inkheart get much deeper into these themes. When Mo and his daughter Meggie track down the author of Inkheart (the book in the story is the same name as the title of the book), it’s so fascinating when the author meets his creation and has to try to help/hurt some of them. 

The only thing to slow the flow of the story down was the same problem “The Lord of the Rings” had. There are too many capture/escape back and forth, and it gets boring reading over and over about hiding and being afraid of being caught….again. The author of the real book could have gotten across the same story without so much running through the hillside evading the same people who caught the main characters the previous two times they escaped. During those parts, I was tempted to just skip ahead to the next chapter but I just skimmed the words until other character appeared or until they were put back into the cell/room/crypt they escaped from. The main reason all these escapes and captures became redundant is that since this is a childrens/young adult book there is no real danger of anyone dying. There is endless “I’m going to cut your throat if you don’t stop talking” and “If you try to escape again, I’ll shoot you with my gun”, but no threats are ever carried out.

It’s a great first novel to set up the characters, setting, and dynamics for the sequels. Hopefully they will jump right into the action and the author will assume her audience can handle a threat being carried out.

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