Sunday, 8 November 2009

Inkdeath: Cornelia Funke

You know you love a book when you are in a tearing hurry to find out how it all turns out at the end and yet you never want to have to leave its pages. This final part in the 'Inkheart' trilogy is more enchanting, more exhilerating and more delightfully unpredictable than the previous instalments. Funke seems to enjoy confounding her readers' expectations: just when you think you know how the tale will end, she weaves another, totally unexpected thread into the story and expands the possibilities for narrative development yet further.
Whereas 'Inkheart' was strongly focused on Meggie and 'Inkspell' could be argued to concentrate on Fenollio more than anyone, 'Inkdeath' is Mortimer Fulchart's story. Thrown into the Inkworld in the previous novel by the malicious Orpheous, Mo finds himself increasingly inhabiting the character of the Bluejay, a Robin Hood style hero Fenoglio has been writing songs about to help raise the morale of a people who have been utterly downtrodden and terrorised by the now-immortal Adderhead and his cronies.
Once again we are immersed in a complexity of almost existential questions - What is the world made of if not words? Does each individual write their own life story or are there external influences scripting things for them? Is a life lived in fear of death really life at all? There is a darkness and tension running throughout which rivals Tolkein in its intensity. And the further I became engrossed in the plot, the more I was reminded of the constantly tightening grip of fear that comes when reading 'The Lord of the Rings'. Mo's task is akin to Frodo's too, in that he has to destroy the book he'd originally created in order to assure the Adderhead's immortality. His closest ally turns out to be Dustfinger, brought back from the dead after an attempt at double-dealing by Orpheus fails to kill Mo off.
Giving himself up to save the children of Ombra, Mo is inititally taken prisoner in the dungeons of the castle there. There follow several episodes of apprent escape and recapture in best cliff-hanger tradition. The finale of the novel takes place in the gloomy Castle in the Lake, where the Adderhead appears to have outsmarted Mo's efforts to consign him to death. I won't spoil the ending but suffice to say, it does not disappoint, so skilfully and commitedly does Funke tie up this three-part saga of the Inkworld. She even leaves us with the potential for further Inkworld adventures, quite likely as experienced by some of the younger characters.
'Inkdeath' is one of the most perfect 'children's' novels I have ever read. Indeed I am reluctant to classify it as children's literature, so blackly and philologically does Funke tell her tale at times. But this only proves what all good story-tellers know - literature must acknowledge the realities of life, for good and for bad, in order to leave a lasting impression.

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