Book Review: “Inkspell” by Cornelia Funke

Accio Book!

Several years ago I read and loved the book Inkheart, the first novel in a trilogy by the same name, featuring a bookbinder named Mo (sometimes known as Silvertongue) and his daughter Meggie, both of whom have the power to summon characters out of stories by reading them aloud – and who sometimes, even inadvertently, send real people like Meggie’s mother into the world where the story takes place.

I read and loved the book, I say, yet I didn’t read its sequel until now. Part of this has to do with the movie based on Inkheart starring Brendan Fraser as Mo and Andy Serkis as the villain Capricorn. Even though Funke intended Fraser to play her hero from the moment she conceived the character, the fact that the film effectively burned any possibility of a sequel somehow turned me against reading the rest of the trilogy. I know, that’s unfair of me.

One of the ironies of my reconciliation with the series is that Brendan Fraser read the audiobook that brought me back into the Inkworld. And though on film I have never been impressed when he attempted to play anything but a vanilla blockbuster hero (see The Mummy, etc.), I was surprised by the versatility of his reading voice. He may have limitations as a actor, but as an audiobook reader he has a voice and even a dialect for every character.

As for Funke, the peril and magic of Inkworld still speak for themselves. Translated by Anthea Bell from the German title Tintenblut, this middle book of the trilogy inverts the first installment’s flow of characters from book to reality, sending most of its real-world characters into the world of the book. The magic happens in part because of the power of great words, like those written by Fenoglio, author of the book-within-the-book, and in part through a rare talent for reading aloud shared by Meggie, Mo, and only a few other people.

But once they’ve read themselves in, or been read by, say, the nefarious Orpheus, things do not unfold in the expected storybook fashion. The story Fenoglio originally planned has grown out of control. Inkheart is going all wrong. The villains are too strong, and the good characters are too vulnerable, and every time the old man tries to write something to fix the situation, he just makes it worse. The Laughing Prince isn’t laughing anymore. An attempt to bring his heir back from a grim fate leads to even grimmer results. The witch Mortola, the tyrant Adderhead, and many of Capricorn’s cruel henchmen have joined forces and are turning the Inkworld into a place of fear and death. A bitter doom steals the sweetness from the fire-dancer Dustfinger’s longed-for homecoming. And for Meggie, separated from her parents so soon after seeing them reunited, her dream of visiting the Inkworld becomes a nightmare.

Mo arrives in a world of magic just in time to suffer a nearly fatal injury. As he heals, he gradually learns that Fenoglio has written him a dangerous new role as a heroic robber marked for death by the Adderhead. To save Mo and her mother Resa from the bad guys, Meggie must convince the Adderhead to try a dark, magical cure for his fear of death. And to help them all escape in the climactic battle, Dustfinger will pay a price that breaks his heart. When he gambles his life on a piece of storytelling that grew wild in the spaces between Fenoglio’s words, the hook is set, and the trilogy’s third part, Inkdeath, begins to reel us in.

Funke is the award-winning author of The Thief Lord, Dragon Rider, When Santa Fell to Earth, Igraine the Brave, Saving Mississippi, Ghost Knight, and the MirrorWorld, Ghost Hunters, and Wild Chicks series. Every one of her titles looks like it would be fun to read, though you’ll have to learn German to read a few of them.

Cornelia Funke’s website
Recommended Ages: 13+