Everything disappeared: the red walls of the church, the faces of Capricorn’s men, Capricorn himself sitting in his chair. There was nothing but Mo’s voice and the pictures forming in their minds from the letters on the page, like the pattern of a carpet taking shape on a loom.
Cornelia Funke is a master of children’s fantasy. Apparently she is the third best-selling children’s author in Germany, after J. K. Rowling and R. L. Stine, a formidable accomplishment for someone who only published her first book in 2002. Everything about her work is beautifully executed, wonderfully polished, and perfectly seamless.
Like Madeline L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, Inkheart begins with a young girl in bed on a rainy night. I have a feeling this scene is actually an allusion to Wrinkle, as Funke is consistently intertextual throughout this novel, following Philip Pullman’s technique in The Amber Spyglass, placing an epigraph at the top of each chapter. Funke knows her children’s literature, and the quotes do a beautiful job of tying in with the theme of each chapter. Her love for her medium really shows through in the quotes as well as in Mo’s bookbinding.
More than the one scene, though, Funke’s style itself reminds me of L’Engle. Like L’Engle, Funke always seems in control of her story, she knows her characters inside and out, and her novel has a near-perfect interior logic. Funke makes blue fairies, fire elves, and other characters who can literally be read out of books seem perfectly logical, in the same way that L’Engle makes a giant brain running a planet seem possible.
The translation is worth mentioning as well — Funke originally wrote Inkheart in German, but Anthea Bell’s translation is spot-on. I don’t know German, of course, so I really don’t know if it catches every nuance of what Funke meant, but the language seems fluid and perfect to me. Additionally, with Funke’s emphasis on reading aloud, it’s worth mentioning that this book would sound marvelous read out loud.
Overall, this is definitely a book worth buying, and I have a feeling the rest of the books in the trilogy will be just as good, if not better! I may have to abandon Brisingr in favor of Funke’s infinitely superior works.