Cornelia Funke is another favourite author / illustrator. I’ve enjoyed many of her books – most of them for children, like “Dragonrider” and “The Thief Lord”. But I want to write about are her not-quite-children’s books, the “Inkheart” series.
There are two books in this series so far, “Inkheart” and “Inkspell”. The third book, “Inkblood” is apparently to be for sale in October of this year.
Like another German author, Michael Ende (The Neverending Story), Cornelia Funke writes about the worlds inside books, and our world, and what happens when the two overlap and influence one another. Where do stories have their existence? Where do the characters come from, and are they any less alive than the reader? If you, like myself, spent a large part of your childhood living in Narnia or the Arabian Nights, or listening to the Brothers Grim this idea has special significance.
In Inkheart the heroine, Meggie, lives with her father Mo. Mo is a restorer of books – and books and stories are central to the lives of father and daughter. But why is it that this lover of books and stories never reads out loud to his daughter? I can give this much away – in Inkheart, Meggie discovers that when her father reads out loud the result is so evocative, so powerful that the very characters from the stories are torn out of the world of books, and trapped in our world. This becomes the fundamental problem that Meggie has to deal with – the consequences of her father’s talent, and of the talent of Fenoglio, the author of a particularly fabulous book – “Inkheart”.
Actually that’s another parallel with “The Neverending Story” – you are reading a book that the characters you are reading about, are in – and they are also reading the book you are reading…
The Inkheart series is fresh and fascinating – with many wonderful characters like the tragic Dustfinger and his pet marten Gwin, pictured below.
The second book, Inkspell, is a lot darker. Inkheart is still a children’s book. Inkspell is certainly not. The frightening villains from the first book, like Basta and Capricorn come into their own, and Meggie and her friends have to face some very dark choices.
Speaking of Michal Ende – if you only know of The Neverending Story from the movie, do yourself a favour – read the book. It bears about as much resemblance to the movie as a Dragon to a marshmallow fish.