Shoshana, February 4, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
+ Worldbuilding, competent female protagonist, interesting details
- Flat characters, deus ex machina, continuity/plot concerns
It took me a long time to get through Inkspell, and not because it was over 600 pages. Rather, I found both Inkspell and the first volume in this apparent trilogy, Inkheart, flat and clunky. This is ?children?s literature? of the sort that makes the Harry Potter books so compelling by comparison: Where Rowling escapes her genre, Funke is firmly entrenched in it. Funke shows what she can do for about a hundred pages?roughly, pages 200-300 in the hardback Scholastic edition. However, whatever it is that illuminates a tale soon goes missing again.
The plot itself is fine so far as it goes: Events unfold (though I don?t see much character growth) and complications arise. However, characterization and character development (such as it is) is broadly and badly drawn and relies on one or two details about each character that are repeatedly asserted. I can live with this, though I?m surprised Funke can?t do better. What it means, though is that the characters are 1-dimensional; since the conceit of this series is bringing books alive, the lack of vibrant characterization is particularly problematic and intrudes on the reader?s suspension of disbelief.
More troublingly, Funke does not resolve two problems from Inkheart, that contributed greatly to my disappointment with plotting in that book, and contributes several apparent continuity oversights in Inkspell. At the risk of being too obscure, I'll try to present my concerns without giving anything away.
First, toward the end of Inkheart, someone disappears, presumably not by choice. The characters' response to this is shockingly laissez-faire. By contrast, Resa?s disappearance many years before has been a source of agony to her family and drives much of the emotional narrative here. The lack of concern for, or subsequent energy spent on, a person's disappearance makes this book deeply immoral and is the only real reason that I would not supply it to a child.
Second, someone who should have died (according to the rules of the book's reality) doesn't. A shouting match ensues about why the person isn't dead; and the character replies, ?How should I know?? I withheld judgment about this until I finished Inkspell. Since this question went utterly unaddressed, I will now say that for an author to pull this sort of suspension of the rules of her own universe to move her plot along is deus ex machina of the worst sort. If the reader can?t trust the book?s own internal logic, dramatic tension is lost and the resolution can hardly be satisfying.
Indeed, deus ex machina rears its head at various points in Inkspell, in most cases through the stratagem of someone remembering something s/he had forgotten (that the reader did not know about) or suddenly revealing a secret (that has not been previously hinted at). Hinting is, in fact, not Funke?s strong suit; when she introduces a new comment or detail about a character or locale, look for it to be a requirement of the plot shortly thereafter.
Not to spoil the major dramatic moment of Inkspell, but it was dragged off-course for me by my preoccupation with details related to a book that is being made. There is a discussion about the quality of the paper; later, a point is raised about scraping something off a page. I thought, ?Huh. You can scrape ink off parchment, but can you really scrape ink off paper?? Apparently not, because at the next description of the book, the page that is to be scraped is described as parchment. Later, it?s described as paper again. I don?t care one way or another, except that a) this is sloppy writing; b) the reader has been told earlier that Meggie abhors the slaughter of goats for hides to make parchment, and a 500-page book would require killing 250 goats according to the math used earlier in the book; and c) the Adderhead is clearly superstitious and meticulous, and, as in Jewish tradition for Torah scrolls, probably would not propose or agree to the writing/scraping activity that occurs due to the fear that an error would be introduced into the text and hence the process.
Between the poor characterization, the clunky language (some of it a translation problem if the complex tenses are any indication), the small but distracting errors, and the large and troubling moral and plot issues, I found Inkspell an unsatisfactory book and a disappointing follow up (or lack of follow up) to the problems raised by Inkheart. I?ll probably read the next one because I always hope an author will manage to pull the loose ends together, but I?m not hopeful.
Nitpick: It annoys me that there are presumably unrelated characters named Mortimer and Mortola.
Nitpick: The German title was Tintenblut, or Inkblood. The English language publishers should have retained this title, which is both more accurate and a better parallel to Tintenhertz, Inkheart.
If you enjoy books where the ?real? world of the book intersects with ?literary? worlds within other books, try Jasper Fforde?s Tuesday Next books (beginning with The Eyre Affair) instead. If you like books about how tampering with reality by manipulating a symbolic analogue goes awry, you will be better served by Le Guin?s The Lathe of Heaven. On the other hand, plenty of people rate this book very highly. If the writing and moral issues I've identified don't bother you, have at it.
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jengem, September 29, 2006 (view all comments by jengem)
Inkheart has filled my heart! I cant believe that a book translated so well from German into English. It is pure like poetry! I just get the gutters when I read it- It?s a book about my childhood dream, to be able to meet people from storybooks and to get to be read INTO a book! It?s magic! I think book 3 will just get better! This book is going on my favorite shelf with all my favorite books!
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katie_kaboom, August 11, 2006 (view all comments by katie_kaboom)
i love inkheart but i loved this book even more. i couldnt put the book down. the saddest part of it was when i had finished the the book. it means that i have to wait on the third book. i really cant wait until it comes out!! it might even be better than this one. i hope it doesnt take too long for it to come out.
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Reno-Axel, May 28, 2006 (view all comments by Reno-Axel)
wow, this book is way better then the first, (the first was awsome 2)) i havent finesed it yet so no sploilers!!! Dustfinger is the ASOLUTE best!! great book!!!!
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Chicken House -
In the hopes of saving Dustfinger from Basta, Farid and Meggie have entered Inkworld by reading themselves into the book Inkheart. Fenoglio who entered Inkworld at the end of the first book, keeps trying to rewrite parts of the story, but he's discovered that the story characters have a life and will of their own. I loved Inkspell. Find out what happens in this second installment of what I hope is a series ('cause I want more)!
A thrilling, page-turning sequel to Inkheart. Beloved characters return, new ones make their triumphant debut, and above all, a love of reading and books permeates each page of action-packed, cliff-hanging adventure.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In this spellbinding follow-up to Inkheart, Funke expertly mixes joy, pain, suspense and magic. In the opening chapter, Dustfinger returns to Inkheart, the fantastic novel (within Funke's novel of the same name) from which he was sprung, and his 'devoted' apprentice, Farid, asks Meggie to use her magical reading powers to send him into the story. Meggie, lured by the 'place of marvels and adventures,' goes with him. Her parents soon follow. The omniscient narrator allows readers to jump from the 'real' world to Inkworld, where a war is brewing between Ombra Castle and the evil Adderhead's Castle of Night. Worse, Meggie's father, Mo (aka Silvertongue), is mistaken for a Robin Hood — type figure known as the Bluejay and is to be executed. Readers will race along with Meggie and other Inkheart favorites as the characters try to create a 'happy ending.' Funke again cleverly plays with the power of words: Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart, now lives in the world he created and continues to write new story lines — which play out in often unintended ways (e.g. he bases the Bluejay character on Meggie's father, putting Mo in danger). This is a thick and dark book (the Magpie shoots Mo, nearly killing him, and Basta appears for a final showdown), as well as sophisticated — especially the romance blossoming between Farid and Meggie, and Dustfinger's complicated relationship with Meggie's mother. There is much left to explore; readers will eagerly await the last in the planned trilogy. Ages 8-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by School Library Journal,
"This is an involving story that will draw readers smoothly to its conclusion and leave them waiting for the final volume in this projected trilogy."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Funke delivers more than enough action, romance, tragedy, villainy and emotion to keep readers turning the pages — and waiting for the sequel the cliffhanger ending promises."
In this sequel to Inkheart, Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, has a desperate need to return to the tale. Before long, the reader who brought Dustfinger to life is caught inside the book, too, as the story evolves in ways neither of them imagined.
The captivating sequel to INKHEART, the critically acclaimed, international bestseller by Cornelia Funke, an author who is emerging as a truly modern classic writer for children.
Although a year has passed, not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of INKHEART, the book whose characters became real. But for Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller with the ability to read him back, Dustfinger leaves behind his young apprentice Farid and plunges into the medieval world of his past. Distraught, Farid goes in search of Meggie, and before long, both are caught inside the book, too. But the story is threatening to evolve in ways neither of them could ever have imagined.
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