Inkheart: Living between lines of text

April 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

The tragedy of children’s fantasy is the adult attention it does not excite. I mean, would you pick up a book called Dragon Rider by a passably famous children’s book writer? I did. And it’s been a fantastic slide into the world inked by Cornelia Funke.

The real hook though was picking up the first of her trilogy, Inkheart, a story of books and the uncontrollable obsession of living in the world of words. Fantasy and pixies aside, though they’re essential to my interest in children’s fiction, there’s something else going on here. A bookbinder, his imaginative child and her book crazy aunt are all so easy to love if you love printed matter. I do, and I came to love these characters as though they were alive. And the story itself revolves around that concept a book lover understands too well. Characters come alive when you read a wonderfully written tale, enchanting you with the sheer possibility of their personalities.

Inkheart is the story of a story come alive, to the alarm of its characters and the loss of many. In its wake it throws out a fire eater called Dustfinger, who is human fantasy incarnate and the king of cool (pardon the pun). That age old human ambition to control fire and bank it like a dangerous pet is so marvellously portrayed by the scar-faced Dustfinger. A very unknowing dude in every sense, he is a classic mix of the Lone ranger aura, cynic of the world-steam-rolled-me order and nobody needs to love me act all rolled in one. Then, there’s the adorable Elinor, aunt to heroine Meggie with more love for her books than the human life form. She is the Fairy Godmother for the bookworm, exist somewhere please?

Mortimer, or Mo, is like a James Potter and Danny of Full House in the book world. He’s the teddy bear with the pince-nez like a Jeeves plus Wooster, till his tragedy rolls out like a hidden scar bleeding unknown. And there’s Meggie herself like the elected representative of the reader. All these folks belong to the Real world and out jump the characters of Inkheart, Basta (ha ha ha), a baddy bad villain and Capricorn, the prince of villains with a witchy mommy called Mortola. The characters are classic with names like the Magpie and the exotic Farid (well in this book he’s a kid) straight out of Arabian Nights making it an appetizing read. Then there’s that surprising element of tasteful garnish, small excerpts from other works taken by the author to lend context to each chapter of her story. Quite charming and very grown up without being preachy, me thinks.

Chapter 56: The Shadow

My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay

My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapor of death in the night.

William Blake, Enion’s Second Lament from Vala, or the Four Zoas

Inkheart is an ode to the love of reading. A very creative and entertaining dedication to the written word and the magic it brings to those who listen to the heartbeat of a book. Sigh.

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