Monday, 7 April 2008
It's done! I finished it yesterday. And......it's okay. I can't give it a rave review, because I struggled through the early and middle parts of the book to keep reading. I had two major complaints about the book: the main characters for the most part are so wimpy and until Fenoglio comes along, there is nothing to really cheer for except Dustfinger (more about him in a moment), and second, the bad characters have no redeeming characteristics. They are just bad, not complex or having anything that softens the badness. As we all know, no one is all bad or all good.
This could be the result of a few things: one, the writer (Fenoglio) wrote a fiction book that had cardboard good and bad characters, from which Basta, Capricorn and everyone else bad spring; or Cornelia Funke herself is not such a good character writer herself. I still haven't quite made up my mind about this. I was so annoyed at Capricorn and Basta, and found some of their actions and dialogue painful. They were evil, and here is the strange thing: they acted like badly drawn villains in a book, along with stilted dialogue - either the author (Fenoglio) wrote a turn-of-the-century children's novel that these characters came from, or the author Funke forgot to give her characters different voices, shades of gray in their characterization. All of her characters speak in the same way, and yet most of the baddies can't read. How could Capricorn talk at the same level as one of his minions? Did Fenoglio write him that way, or Funke? Is she more skilled to show Fenoglio as a so-so writer, or....?
Against those flaws, are the writing and setting, the story itself, Dustfinger, and the resolution. I love the story idea, that characters can be read from a book into life. I love the switch Funke plays on this idea too - please, Gentle Reader, I am not going to give many plot points away, because my intention with any book review is to give my opinion, but I'd like you to read the book yourself, so I don't intend to tell you everything about it! - and how she has Fenoglio take responsibility as the author of Inkheart, and how he solves it - is amazing. That was truly remarkable, and lifted the book. I like that one of the baddies is still on the loose, and where they all end up. I like Elinor, and even Mo, and how Meggie decides on finding out what her gifts are.
Especially, I liked Dustfinger. He was a complex character, good and bad, with a motivating factor that drove him to do what he did. He is the best drawn of any in the book. Inkheart is worth reading for him alone. He is the tragic figure that moves the plot along. I was angry at him, wanted to hate him in the beginning, but I found I couldn't. I had sympathy for him, and am of two minds about whether I want him to go back into his world or not!
I did in the end like Meggie - for a long time I wanted her to do something, anything, and finally, finally she does several things - tries to run away, gets a secret message to her Dad (very cute touch, how it is done), and that at the end, she decides what she wants to do. She makes choices of her own. If nothing else, this is a good book to illustrate why characters need to do something, anything, to make the reader care about them.
What I can't figure out, is why this book is banned. Somehow it was challenged in one of our libraries or schools here in Ontario, and this is depressing, because this is a fun read for a child. It is not a great book, but it is a good book, with its flaws at least being starting points for discussions with younger readers! ("what would you do if you were Meggie? Why are you mad at her father?" etc). It is a solidly-told story, and has delightful fantasy elements, as well as darker tones that might frighten very young children, and thrill older readers. I do love the Shadow......I wish it had been around a bit longer, existed longer, because that was truly chilling and original. I love the fantasy elements in this book, the fairies, dwarves, etc, and if the book was challenged for these, then I can only shake my head. If it was for the plight of most of the women slaves/maids in the book, and being a "girlfriend' of a baddie, then again, this is only referred to, and certainly nothing overt is ever seen.
I certainly will keep this book for my daughter to read when she gets older (she's only 5), and even with its flaws, I know I am going to read Inkspell, the sequel - I have to know what comes next!
So if I were to give it a rating, it would be 3/5.