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To be honest, when I first saw this book, my heart stopped. At the time, I didn’t really have a book to read (at least not a book for my reading level) and I was running out of what to choose from. Then when I realized there was another fantasy series on the shelf that I didn’t know about, I froze. A fantasy series, for me? I thought. In no time at all I ran up to the librarian, checked the book out, and ran all the way back home. Even after all that, I didn’t expect a ton from this book. But then when I realized what the book was trying to convey, and learned more about the characters and their complex backgrounds, my mind was blown.

Inkheart is a book about books. I know that sounds weird, but you’ll understand soon enough. Basically, the whole book revolves around a young girl named Meggie. When she one day discovers a book her father, Mo, tries to keep secret, she gets very suspicious about what’s going on. Soon enough, her father gets captured by a man named Capricorn. She tries to save him, but she gets captured as well! She and her father are then taken to a creepy village, and as Meggie soon learns what’s really happening, discovers that this village, and this devil Capricorn not only want the book, but something far bigger than she could have ever imagined.

Now, I didn’t love this book at first. The first half was very slow, underwhelming, and didn’t deliver much. However, once I got to the second half, my whole perspective changed. I then understood why the first half was so slow, and soon, I got addicted. Very addicted.

The reason the second half (and basically the whole book if you think about it) stands out compared to other fantasy books is that it makes you think. Most fantasy books I’ve read are mostly just quick adventures with fast-paced action and some small themes, but that’s it. Even my favorite ones (like Harry Potter Books 1-6) focus mostly on the adventure and action in Harry’s adventure, rather than the relationships between the characters, and themes like friendship, sacrifice and power. But Inkheart is different. You learn about the characters’ lives, and ask questions like “Why?” or “How?” For example, Mo doesn’t immediately tell Meggie about the book (because obviously, it’s a secret), but as Meggie gets more caught up in it, he tells her the truth. And he doesn’t just say, “So I found this book and took it with me,” but talks personally about how this book has affected him. It’s amazing that this whole book revolves around one book, and how all these characters get deeply affected by it one way or another. It made me realize the power of books. The amount of knowledge, happiness, and sadness you can get from them— depending on which one you read. It changed my perspective not only about the genre of fantasy, but also about books themselves, which is saying something for a five-hundred-page book.

The book is also very clever in how it handles the evolution of the main story line. During their stay at Capricorn’s village, Meg and friends don’t just escape through a window using some crazy James Bond 007 skills. It’s nothing like that. Instead, the author uses these moments to teach us more about the characters, and to reveal more about the villain’s backstory. And he doesn’t do this this through long conversations where the characters sit around and just talk. Instead, Meggie and her father know they have a specific time window before the villains crash the party, and as a reader, you can feel the clock ticking. So much stuff happens at once—all leading to one epic finale—in which there’s no crazy prison escape. There are many characters cleverly brought into the main story to solve various problems, and each of them impacts the plot in some way (even the animals!). In sum, the author conveys the story through clever storytelling techniques rather than long drawn out dialogues or discussions about the Truth and hidden secrets, like The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus.

Inkheart is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. At first glance, it might seem just like a fun, whimsical adventure, but when you look deeper into it, you’ll realize the themes and beauty it’s trying to convey, and that is why I absolutely loved it.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Scholastic, 2005. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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