Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, translated by Anthea Bell
One cruel night, Meggie’s father reads aloud from a book called INKHEART– and an evil ruler escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that has conjured this nightmare. For only she can change the course of the story that has changed her life forever.
What a disappointment! I’ve been looking forward to reading Inkheart for several years, and it fell short of every expectation. It was just so bleh.
For starters, this book was SLOW, especially for a middle-grade book. It was at least 150 pages in before anything even started to happen! And even then, things continued so slowly. Going in circles, taking 20 pages for the characters to drive an hour, things like that. I think this would have been a fun novel if it had been 200 pages instead of 500.
I also didn’t much care for the main character, Meggie. A lot of things about Meggie are unclear, such as her appearance, her age, or her character. She doesn’t have much personality, aside from being afraid all the time and clingy to her father. And the worst part of this whole book was that Meggie didn’t really seem to be an active player in the events. Up until the last hundred pages or so she doesn’t really participate in the novel so much as observe it take place. And she wasn’t even good at that! She never seemed to understand what was going on, even when it was painfully obvious to me.
The biggest let-down of Inkheart were the lackluster fantasy elements. A creature called a marten has horns, and there’s a supposed fire-and-smoke-monster that makes an appearance for approximately three pages, and that’s it. Well, and they can read characters and items out of books, but even that barely happens.
I was quite unimpressed with the villains. The adult characters frequently warn Meggie how scary and dangerous they are, but they seem to be limited to threatening. Mostly they say things like “I’m going to cut out your tongue” or “I’m going to cut off your fingers,” but they never do any of those things. The main villain, Capricorn, seems to be dangerous only in that he looks frightening.
Finally, this book was … odd. I’m not really sure how to describe what I mean. The cadence of the words was strange. I don’t know if that’s because it was translated and it sounds too German, or if the translator just doesn’t write children’s books usually, or because Funke herself has a strange way of writing. Either way, it came across sounding very stiff to me.
Inkheart is not a book I think most children would enjoy. Young teens who like books about books might get a kick out of this one, but mostly I would suggest watching the movie instead. It was more fun.