I am always torn about when to write book reviews: Do I write them immediately after reading the book, while it is still fresh on my mind and my next read does not interfere and cause confusion (such is my middle-aged memory) OR do I allow myself the time to ponder my initial reactions to the book and let them meld into a more thoughtful response? As is my usual MOD - I will select option one because quite frankly, I do not trust my memory anymore.
Inkheart was a stretch outside my comfort zone. It is definitely in the realm of fantasy fiction (something my brain just can't seem to grasp yet)....but the idea of bringing characters from books to life was just too appealing to this self-confessed bibliophile. I must say that I am VERY glad that did not allow my preconceived ideas about genre affect my decision. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I am looking forward to reading its sequel, Inkspell (this is actually a trilogy, which concludes with Inkdeath - but I am not sure when I will have the opportunity to read that one).
I posted my review of the first half of the book this week on TSS - so I won't be redundant here. The book grabbed my attention almost immediately - not because of the "fast paced" action (although that does come later), but because of the absolutely exquisite descriptions the author gives about reading books aloud (the main character is Mo - otherwise known as Silvertongue - and he is aptly named); about the physical beauty of books; and about the love, respect, and adoration these characters have toward their vast personal libraries.
I thought the author, Cornelia Funke, did a great job of developing many of the characters: most notably Mo and his daughter Meggie, her elderly great-aunt Elinor, and one of the misplaced characters from the book, Inkheart, Dustfinger. While Mo has experienced quite a bit of sorrow in his recent life (when he "read" certain characters to life, his wife was read into the book --- and unable to return to Mo or Meggie), he has a sweet, kind, gentle spirit that is evident toward everyone with whom he comes in contact. He is a great protector and friend towards his daughter, he is extremely patient and kind toward the cantankerous Elinor, and he is quite tolerant of the books' antagonists -- choosing to put himself in their shoes before judging them. I LOVE Mo! I love his work ethic; I love the passion he has for his work - and for books; I love his voice and magic ability to bring characters to life - literally.
Meggie is a spirited young thing - and we soon learn that she possesses the same magic skill of reading characters to life as her father. Her first successful attempt brings Tinkerbell from Peter Pan into our world - and the author's skillful writing, along with my wisp of imagination, made this seem believable; in fact - as I read this portion of the novel I kept thinking, "If I possessed this magic power - which character would I want to bring to life first? How would I want to interact with them? How would I expect them to react to our foreign world?" I think this is why I liked the book so much --- it helped me to find my creative side -- to ask "what if" and really consider the possibility.
While Dustfinger is definitely one of the "bad guys" and can rarely be trusted, the author has a way of evoking much sympathy for him. Dustfinger just wants to return home. He doesn't know how his story ends (do any of us know how our story will end?!) -- but he wants the comfort of the known - rather than living in a world of the unfamiliar. While he is not the most trustworthy character - and he definitely looks out for number one quite often - Dustfinger also shows compassion towards others. The ending of the book indicates that Dustfinger will definitely be a featured character in Inkspell.
My only real complaint of the book is that I did not think the other "bad guys" - Capricorn, Basta, Flatnose, etc., were as scary as I was told they should be. Now don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the fact that this book was not filled with graphic details of blood, guts and physical abuse -- but somehow there was something missing and it failed to capture my imagination that these were truly evil characters. Of course, this PG rated book makes it perfect for the YA fantasy genre in which it is categorized, but quite honestly, I found the book perfectly suitable for this adult audience as well. It is a long by anyone's standards - especially young adults (approximately 550 pages) - but quite captivating. I would imagine that this would be a GREAT audio book - if the narrator reads this story as eloquently as Mo. I would think listening to the various voices of each of the main characters would add further depth and enjoyment to this great tale.