by Cornelia Funke
Translated by Anthea Bell
For five reasons I am excited to be writing a review of this book: (1) Its going to be a major motion picture soon; (2) Its the first
part of a trilogy whose second book, Inkspell
, is about to be published; (3) Its by the same author as Dragon Rider
; (4) The paperback just hit the shelves of bookstores in the U.S.; and (5) A million people have sent me messages insisting
that I read it RIGHT NOW. But apart from that, Im glad that I can share it with you because its an excellent book.
Before I sing the praises of Cornelia Funke, I must sing of Anthea Bell, who translated this book from its original German. In my day job
I have come across a lot of translated material, and you can almost always tell it was translated. Something of the original is always lost
in translation, and there is always just enough awkwardness in the syntax to remind you that the translator is trying hard. Anthea Bells
translation is one of the few exceptionsso effortless, so smooth, so idiomatic that you can hardly believe it wasnt written in English to
start with. To put a point on it, the translator is invisible. Bravo!
In fact, the translation is so good that it left me wondering whether the quotes from all my favorite books, which head each chapter, were
chosen by Funke or by Bell. Most of them were originally in English. And I also wonder whose idea it was to make the setting so vaguetheres
a lot of talk about the north and the south, and although American readers will probably picture most of the story as taking place in
Mexico, Im pretty sure Frau Funke has Italy in mind.
As for the story, it nestles comfortably into the tradition of the classic stories it quotes from. Readers of Jasper Ffordes
Thursday Next series, or of Michael Endes Neverending Story,
may recognize the basic idea. For in Inkheart, it is possible for real people (from our world, that is) to cross over into the
world where characters in a book live. And the characters in the book, in exchange, can cross into our world. The magic in this unique story
comes not from the book itself, or from a diabolically clever gadget, but from the voice of certain people reading the book out loudany book
will do, as long as it is well-written. Some people have the gift of making the words come to life, painting the scenery with their voice,
transporting their hearers (in their mind, at least) to a magical world, making them see and hear and smell and feel the things the book
describes. And some peoplevery few, thank Godtake it a step further: when they read aloud, objects and creatures and even people sometimes
disappear from one reality and appear inside the other.
One of those people is a bookbinder named Mo, who lives alone with his adored and adoring daughter, Meggie. Mo and Meggie both love to
read books, but Mo never reads to Meggie aloud. She wonders about this sometimes. Then one dark, stormy night a suspicious stranger visits
Mo, and the next day they are on the run from their home. A villain is after them, a villain who came out of a book called Inkheart,
and whose heart is as black as the title suggests. The villain is named Capricorn, who has been stealing all the copies of Inkheart in
the world and wants to steal Mo as well, because Capricorn believes that Mo has the power to read him and his vile henchmen back into the
book they came from.
I will say no more about the plot, except that it is suspenseful, filled with colorful characterssome of them flamboyantly evil, and the
rest of them complex and fascinatingly flawedand that a lot of really deadly peril lies in store for Meggie and her friends as she tries to
find a way to set the story straight.
I am really interested to know where the sequel takes these characters (the ones who survive, anyway), after the excitement and drama of
this book. Truly this is a book for people who love books, about people who love books. It will come alive as you read it almost as if the
characters had stepped off the page...a thought that makes me shiver, though I cannot tell whether it is from pleasure or from dread...
Recommended Age: 12+
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