[This post is modified from the original review I wrote after first reading
Inkheart back in 2006.]
It’s rare that I’m convinced I have to finish a book before I go to sleep, feeling that there’s no way I can succumb to slumber until I know what happens to the characters. It’s also rare for me to stay up past midnight for this reason. Rarer still will I finish an entire book in one day. I’m a bookworm, yes, but usually not to such an extent. Nevertheless, all three of these rarities occurred the first time I read Cornelia Funke’s delightful Inkheart. Years later, I still have a hard time describing what makes it so tremendous.
Inkheart tells the story of twelve-year-old Meggie and her adventures with books—particularly with one book, a mysterious and somehow dangerous story called Inkheart. When a strange man named Dustfinger suddenly appears to meet with Meggie’s father in the middle of the night during a rainstorm, Meggie finds herself swept away from the world she has always known and caught up in a world she thought only existed in the pages of a book. Inkheart has come alive in the real world, though she does not initially understand how, and Meggie is put to the ultimate test when she realizes she alone has the power to destroy evil and save the lives of those she loves.
I’ve always believed that one of the most important aspects of good fiction is good characterization. If a book’s characters aren’t believable, real, genuine, and engrossing, then the story simply cannot involve the reader successfully. Cornelia Funke has the talent of making her characters come alive in a breathtaking way. As I read, I couldn’t help becoming attached to them all—Meggie, Dustfinger, Mo, Aunt Elinor, Farid—and I couldn’t help despising the villains—Capricorn, Basta, Mortola the “Magpie.” Funke’s characters delight you, disgust you, surprise you, and ultimately move you and sweep you into their world.
Cornelia Funke is a storyteller in the fullest sense of the word, and her writing throughout Inkheart proves it. From the very first sentence, she pulls the reader into her world, beautifully portrayed so that everything unfolds before your eyes. Throughout the story, one thing is made particularly clear—Meggie loves books. She is a bookworm in every respect, as revealed in the very first chapter when she sleeps with her book under her pillow. A deep love of literature pervades the whole of the story, delightful for any reader who is a true bibliophile. One of my favorite quotes comes from Meggie’s father in the second chapter: “If you take a book with you on a journey, an odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it . . . yes, books are like flypaper—memories cling to the printed page better than anything else.” Again and again, I found myself smiling and nodding as some new insight into the power of the printed word came to light through the story.
It speaks for itself, from the very first page. At the time of my first reading, I was only beginning to plunge into the world of fantasy books, but I believe this title will always rank near the top of my list of favorites. Open it up and see for yourself. But be forewarned—you might not be able to put it down!