Monday, 7 April 2008


It's done! I finished it yesterday.'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.
Links: Eva


Unknown said...

I still haven't read this but am hoping to at some point. I might wait until after the film comes out now. I didn't realise it had been banned...

Susan said...

Hi Rhinoa - it's not banned all over this country! Just at some library or school, but I don't know which. It's just sad it's even been challenged as unacceptable for kids to read! I do hope you enjoy it when you do finally read it.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I'm not sure I'll get to reading this anytime soon but I am really looking forward to the film. I hope it is not a disaster like Eragon was.

Eva said...

Hi Susan! I gave Stephanie two days and she never responded, so now you're the official winner of If on a winter night's a traveler. :) Just e-mail me your address: astripedarmchairATgmailDOTcom

Anonymous said...

No, I'm still trying to get my head round the banned part as well. I'm with you on this one. My immediate reaction was perhaps I should have re-read 'Inkspell' first and that i might then have enjoyed this more. I thought it was perhaps taking the original idea further than it actually had to go. When the final part arrives I will definitely try and read all three books straight through and see if that helps, but I'm wondering if the fact that we have had to wait quite some time for book the third indicates that Funke is having a problem spinning it out further.

Susan said...

Hi Carl - I haven't read Eragon yet - my sister said it was good, so someday - but there are so many other fantasies to read in the meantime!! I know the movie was not well received. I expect we'll see it someday when my children are a bit older....I still haven't decided if I can take my 5 year old to see Inkheart when it opens later this spring. She really wants to go.
By the way, what didn't you like about Eragon the movie?

Hi Eva - I've emailed you already and you know how excited and thrilled I am!! Hurray! thank you!!!! I can hardly believe it....

Susan said...

Hi Table Talk - your post came in as i was answering Carl and Eva - you may be right about the third book, since I thought the third one was out already - oh, i just checked online, Inkdeath is due out in Oct of this year! so much later....well, I'll try Inkspell at some point before the third is out. I'm glad I'm not the only one having problems with the book, and I think it is a pity, because I really want to like them!

Ana S. said...

Yours is not the first review that I read that says that the characters in this novel lack shades of grey. It still sounds like a fun story, though. I'm going to read it at some point this year - I hope I enjoy it.

Patricia said...

I'll have to check Kristen's library and see if she has this Inkheart book. A lot of popular teen series she's not been interested in reading. She liked Eragon and its sequel but refuses to see the movie. She finds the movies ruin the books. All this at only 14? My, my, she's taking after her auntie!!

Unknown said...

I'm actually a big fan of Inkheart. However, I did not like the sequel, Inkspell much at all. Didn't even finish it. Inkheart says all that needs to be said. I'm stunned to hear that there will be a third book.

My students who loved Inkheart, did not like Inkspell much either.

The Thief Lord, also by Funke, is much better than Inkspell.

Susan said...

Nymeth - the story is good - good storytelling, which is why I want to read the next, despite it's flaws. though everyone seems to think Inkheart is the best of the two published so far....I do hope you enjoy it. It has some interesting ideas, and Dustfinger is really neat as a character. It's not a bad read,just not great.

Lady P - since Carl above says the movie is worse than the book Kristen might be right to not see it!! Eragon, that is. the movie Inkheart looks good, which is why I read the book first. to me, books are always richer than movies (for movies based on them, I mean). Has Kristen got any Shannon Hale on her bookshelf? Everyone is reading her these days.

c.b.james: I have Thief Lord, I still have to read it. Apparently the movie for this is quite good, too. I'll let everyone know when i've read it...I find it interesting that you and your class has the same opinion as everyone else, that Inkheart is the best of the two. I like how you say "Inkheart says all that needs to be said"! It is an interesting concept, isn't it? And I think alot more could have been done with it.

Bybee said...

I've been really curious about Inkheart. Thanks for your review.

Patricia said...

Kristen first saw The Thief Lord as a movie and absolutely loved it. She then purchased the book which sits in her library collection; she tells me it was good as well. I watched The Thief Lord with her and it was pretty good!

This author you mention, what books has she written that you could recommend to your dear niece? p.s. she doesn't read anything because it's popular. She prefers titles that interest her.

Susan said...

Bybee: thanks for your comment. You'll have to let me know if you pick it up, I'd be curious what you think of it.

Lady P: shannon Hale writes books that are modern re-writes of fairy tales. Some sound really interesting. I'll try and get some titles, though if you check any of book blogging buddies, almost everyone has read her but me!

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