Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart is a book about book lovers written for book lovers. The central characters, Meggie, Mo, and Elinor live and breathe books. Bookworms like me will find themselves in good company and will relate to the way every aspect of these characters’ lives are influenced by their love of books. Meggie turns to fairy tales for comfort when feeling sad or anxious; her father Mo makes a living as a “book doctor” who repairs and reconditions books; and aunt Elinor relies on books for companionship and treat them like the children she never had.

Spanning over 500 pages, Inkheart is lengthy for a children’s book. But the entertaining plot unfolds in a mesmerizing way and you will find yourself turning the pages well into the night. The premise is delightful: Meggie and Mo can read characters out of books into our world and vice versa. This ability, however, comes with a price as it can be unpredictable.

Each chapter is introduced with a quote from a well known children’s book and readers will enjoy recognising these quotes and remembering the first time they read them. Within the story itself, the characters make constant references to classic children’s books as they liken the situations they are in with the adventures of famous characters such as Peter Pan and Aladdin. (A few, such as the Tin Solider and Tinker Bell, even make appearances in the book.) I particularly like Elinor’s reference to The Lord of the Rings, which she describes as “the hairy-footed people’s quest”.

Inkheart is not without its shortcomings. The “original” characters often seem more like cardboard cut-outs than the storybook characters that they read about. Mo is a passive, two-dimensional character while Meggie can be feisty one minute and helpless the next. I also had problems distinguishing between the villains: Capricorn and his right-hand man, Basta, could have been one and the same character.

But these are minor flaws. By the time you get to the expected but well executed happy ending, you will find yourself eagerly awaiting the sequel.