by Cornelia FunkeThe characters in Inkheart take their love of books very seriously. Some of them regard literature with the kind of reverence many people reserve for religion, or the sanctity of life. Mo Folchart is a bookbinder, and both he and his daughter Meggie are rarely without books. They travel from place to place a great deal, but in spite of the disruption to her education Meggie is an avid reader and a smart girl. Her mother, however, is absent.
In fact Mo can't get much past his 12-year-old daughter. When a stranger, Dustfinger, turns up and Mo tells her that they have to leave "on business", she sees straight through his deceit and realises immediately that he isn't telling the whole story.
They visit Elinor, a prickly great-aunt who is obsessively enthusiastic about her book collection. But Mo is being pursued by Capricorn and his men, a group of relentlessly evil villains who could easily have stepped out of the pages of a novel. Capricorn wants Mo for his ability as a Silvertongue. Mo can make the characters of book come alive, merely by reading aloud.
However Mo's talent comes at a price. He can't read someone out of a book without making someone else, at random, disappear back into its pages. Mo still scours the old bookshops in the hope of finding something in the pages of an elusive novel, Inkheart.
This book follows the adventures of a small group of book lovers, plus a number of stray fictional characters who feel lost outside their own worlds. Villains such as the superstitious, knife-wielding Basta and the pale, cold Capricorn are exaggerated and somewhat stereotypical, but no less dangerous for their strangeness. Capricorn is keen on fire, and neither reads nor allows any of his henchmen to learn. From the point of view of a bibliophile they represent the worst of the worst.
Each chapter begins with a relevant quote from another novel, and Inkheart certainly does communicate a love for all things literary, and the joys of delving into a good story. And it is a good tale, in spite of having a few villains who aren't very nuanced. Dustfinger doesn't come into this category however, since he's an intricate character who is torn between wanting to return to his world, his inherently fearful nature, and his relationships in this one.
Inkheart is a little sweet, and it ends with quite a few loose ends left dangling, so you really need to read on in order to discover what happens to all the characters. Fortunately the "real" characters are believable and likeable enough, so this is no hardship.
Review © Ros Jackson