Re-Read: Tintenherz (Cornelia Funke)

Tintenherz, translated as Inkheart, is the first novel of the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke.
Finished on: 26.7.2021
[Here’s my first review.]

Meggie and her bookbinder father Mo have always lived rather withdrawn lives surrounded by books. When a stranger shows up on their doorstep one night and introduces himself as Dustfinger, it’s clear that he is actually an old acquaintance of Mo’s. He warns of Capricorn and his men who are coming for Mo, and the very next day, Meggie and Mo pack their stuff and head towards her greataunt Elinor, Dustfinger in tow. Elinor lives even more withdrawn and with even more books. But danger follows them even there because there is something that Mo can do and that Capricorn desperately needs.

Tintenherz is a book for people, especially kids, who really do love books and reading. Not just because of the contents of the book, but also because it’s not a quick read and you need some patience to read it. But I think it pays off.

The book cover showing a mosaic of illustrated letters like at chapter beginnings. There's also a castle, shadowy figures in front of a fire, an open book and a weasel standing on a book.

I read Tintenherz more than 10 years ago, and then I read the second novel in the trilogy, but for some reason, I never read the third – and I figured, I’d finally do that. But given how long it has been, I had better start with the first novel again. (Keep your fingers crossed for me that this won’t become a pattern.)

I suspect the reason that I never read the third book is that Tintenherz drags a bit. I mean, it is a long book to start with – over 500 pages, and in not-too-big print – but it also takes a bit of work to get through it, as you have to propel yourself forward more than the book pulls you along. I am not sure why that is, there should be enough exciting turns in to fill 500 pages with ease, but the pacing just isn’t right.

That being said, it is worth pushing yourself through the book for the great concept and the really fantastic characters. Funke has a way of making deeply-flawed characters that are quite abrasive, and still make you care for them – be it Dustfinger, Elinor or Fenoglio. They all have traits that are usually reviled, and still, the three were my favorite characters in the book. Meggie and Mo are nice, too, and are definitely not perfect, but compared to those three, they feel too smooth.

I did struggle with Farid. Not because of Farid himself, but because his misogyny is commented on a couple of times in a way of “well, coming from an Arab culture, what can you expect”, while Capricorn’s misogyny is never a cultural thing, but a villain thing. This really rubbed me the wrong way, as it seems to posit that Arabic culture is a culture of villains. I did like his complicated relationship with Dustfinger, though.

I’m certainly still curious and willing to finish out the trilogy this time round, the book was definitely good enough for that. But I’m not quite as excited anymore as I was when I read it the first time.

Summarizing: good, but not easy.


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