“Inkheart” is the story of 12-year-old Meggie who lives with her father, Mo, after her mother mysteriously disappeared 9 years earlier. Mo is a bookbinder and collector of old and rare books, and often brings Meggie with him on his journeys for work. One night a strange man called Dustfinger visits Mo, referring to Mo as Silvertongue and asking him to read aloud from a book called “Inkheart”. But when Meggie wants to know why, Mo becomes evasive and hastily packs up their stuff, taking her to Elinor, her mother’s old aunt.
Mo asks Elinor to hide “Inkheart” in her enormous book collection because someone has been buying up or destroying all other copies of the book. The book does not remain safe for long, however; within days, Dustfinger catches up with them and betrays their whereabouts to Capricorn, a comic book like villain of the most dastardly kind. Capricorn steals the book and kidnaps Mo, only to discover later that Elinor has swapped the cover of “Inkheart” with that of another book. Meggie therefore sets out for Capricorn’s lair with the real book in order to rescue her father.
This backfires when Capricorn takes her, too, as prisoner, destroys the book, and forces Mo to read aloud from “Treasure island” and “The Arabian nights.” Only now does Meggie understand why her father never reads out loud to her: he can read people, animals and objects both out of, and into, books. This is how Meggie’s mother disappeared; she is stuck in “Inkheart” while Capricorn, the villain of that book, materialised into the real world along with Dustfinger and several henchmen. Hence why “Inkheart” is so dear to Mo; the novel is his last hope of ever seeing his wife Teresa again. Now Mo and Meggie will have to save themselves, get the last remaining copy of “Inkheart”, and save Teresa while ridding the world of its most fearsome villain yet…
This is a fantasy story for young adults but which reads equally well for older audiences. “Inkheart” can be read as a standalone (as I have done), but is actually the first book in a trilogy. I first came across it as a Hollywood movie starring Brendan Fraser, and was so intrigued by the concept of entering into, as well as bringing fictional characters out of, the world of books by reading aloud, that I wanted to read the novel. As usual the book is better than the film adaptation, particularly in the way the book gives a more detailed tapestry of characters and a far more complex plot. My one criticism of the book, though, is that pruning and careful editing could have enhanced the story even further; given its intended teenage audience, it is a bit on the long side (almost 550 pages long) and the plot has some slow moments even if the author does succeed in keeping you reading to the very end. As usual for books brought to the big screen, whatever you do, don’t spoil this book by watching the film first!