The Inkworld trilogy, by Cornelia Funke

I finally got through all three books in the Inkheart trilogy. I should probably find a better way to phrase it, as that makes it sound like it was a struggle or a chore to read them, and it wasn’t.

The concept is fascinating: Mo is a bookbinder and book enthusiast whose voice literally brings characters to life. As in, when he reads, things come out of the book into our world. Of course, balance must be maintained, so whenever something comes out, something goes in. Mo’s wife was taken into a book called “Inkheart” when one of the villains of the book came out…and now the characters are looking for Mo. Some of them want to go home; some of them want to take over our world. Mo and his daughter Meggie just want their family back.

That’s book one (Inkheart). It was filmed a couple of years ago with Brendan Fraser as Mo and Paul Bettany as Dustfinger (one of the characters). It’s not a great movie but the things that were flawed about it (especially lack of protagonist consistency) work in the book, where it’s easier and more obvious to switch between different points-of-view.

Books two and three are about the fallout from book one. Meggie is still obsessed with the Inkworld and is trying to find a way into it. She doesn’t quite know what she’ll do when she gets there: she just wants to go.

Most of books 2 and 3 explore the Inkworld and the inevitable change that occur, as every writer know, when characters take on a life of their own. Books 2 and 3 are also ways for Funke to show off the complexity and detail of the world she created but didn’t visit in Book 1. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it is a fantastic world.

There’s quite a lot abou tthe power of language and word use, of course, and parts that deal with reader versus author: what kind of ownership does an author have over his work once it’s done? What kind of ownership does a reader have over his favourite work? What responsibility does a writer have to his characters and to his readers? In that element of the concept – the reality of fiction, the idea that we are all characters in a story – it reminded me of Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. But where Sophie’s World is a deliberate education in philosophy, these questions in the Inkworld are explored through characters, so the reader never feels like they’re hearing a treatise.

I really enjoyed these books, and have been recommending them to my friends who like other-world fantasy. Some of the machinations in Book 3 are a little bit reliant on coincidence, but I suppose that’s only natural when the story is ‘being written’ as it happens. More could have been done with the culture shock aspect of it, too, I thought – but I don’t know what you’d cut out in its place. Anyway, they’re excellent books and worth reading.

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Filed under Children's/YA, Fantasy

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