The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Inkheart

August 1, 2011 at 10:59 pm (fantasy, Reviews, writing)

Inkheart – by Cornelia Funke

This fantasy story starts off by introducing the protagonist Meggie, a lover of books who lives alone with her father. All we really know at first is that her mother left and her father, Mo, refuses to read to her aloud and keeps a lot of secrets from her. A young fire-eater named Dustfinger comes looking for Mo, who it turns out is being hunted by the villainous Capricorn, who also seeks Mo’s copy of the book, Inkheart. Mo and Meggie try to escape to the safety of Meggie’s bibliophile/book-collector great aunt, Elinor, but instead merely drag the woman into their unpleasant circumstances. The story then devolves into a series of pursuits, captures and revelations of Mo’s secrets. We discover he has an unusual talent, which is why Capricorn is seeking him out, and why Meggie’s mother is no longer around. I never reveal endings in my reviews, and in this case, while I think it was predictable at a certain point, I also feel it was the best part of the book.

This book is a best-seller, has a review rating of 4.5 based on the input of hundreds of readers and has been made into a movie, so I don’t think many people will agree with my opinion here – at least, I’m not agreeing with popular opinion. Not that the novel didn’t have some value. I wouldn’t have waded my way through 560 pages if there weren’t redeeming features. The story has an original theme, there are many delightful characters with reasonable depth (I love Dustfinger in particular), Ms. Funke has a beautifully smooth writing style with both her narrative and her dialogue, and there are many enjoyable plot points. That being said, there were enough things I took issue with that I definitely wouldn’t rate it a 5 – more like 3.5, and giving a grading system where I have to choose between 3 and 4, I’m more inclined toward 3.

The pacing in this book was awful. 560 pages should have been closer to 300 pages in order to keep things interesting. The start, for instance, contained too much irrelevant preparation for the story, mostly colour and atmosphere, without even giving us proper character backgrounds or a solid story intro. Unlike the common belief in the publishing industry, I firmly support the idea that an author should allow for a chapter of introduction before jumping into the action, but not over 140 pages like in Inkheart. I kept hoping something exciting or significant would happen, but for the longest time, nothing did.

As well, the chasing, running, capturing, escaping cycle seemed to repeat throughout the book. Characters kept doing things I would deem irrational, and I kept waiting for something different to happen. It eventually did, but the whole process was far too drawn out for my tastes and left me bored in places.

Lastly, while I adore a wide variety of characters in a book, and I like it when an author makes minor characters seem as real as the major ones, I think Ms. Funke took this one step too far. There was an assortment of characters that were just there for window-dressing, and added to the clutter of irrelevant descriptions and events that should have been edited out, detracting from the positive aspects of the book. Some of the minor characters were far more interesting and better presented than the major ones. By the end of the book, I still felt like I knew very little about Mo/Silvertongue and more about the bibliophile/book-collector great-aunt, Elinor than Meggie.

In all, I think this book had its pros but also more cons than would allow me to consider it a great read, and only barely a good one. Apparently, most people disagree with me – judge for yourself.

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2 Comments

  1. theleagueofelder said,

    Great review, Chantal–very comprehensive and informative.

  2. chantellyb said,

    Thanks Ren – I’m hoping to review a couple of anthologies next Monday.

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