Inkdeath, by Cornelia Funke
Inkdeath is the final book in Cornelia Funke’s hugely popular Inkworld trilogy and it proves to be a great, action-packed if rather sprawling conclusion to the story. Following the adventures of Meggie Folchart and her bookbinder father Mortimer across two worlds, our own “real” world and the fantastical Inkworld, the events of the previous books in the trilogy, Inkheart and Inkspell, were massive in scope and featured a veritable army of characters, leaving Funke with a lot to live up to, not to mention a lot of ends to tie up, in Inkdeath.
Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart and the creator of the Inkworld, became trapped in his own creation during the events of Funke’s Inkspell and, in his despair at the death of Dustfinger, has turned to drink and vowed never to write again. Without the guiding hand of Fenoglio and heavily influenced by the self-serving alterations made by the nefarious Orpheus, life in the Inkworld is spinning out of control. Following the death of Cosimo the Fair, the city of Ombra is governed by the hated Milksop and ruled over by the now immortal Adderhead. With nearly all of the men of Ombra having been killed during the fighting between the army of Cosimo and the forces of the Adderhead, life for the remaining citizens is becoming increasingly wretched.
Meggie and her father Mortimer were also drawn into the Inkworld during Inkspell and have been living with the Black Prince and his outlaw followers. As the outlaws seek to protect the people of Ombra from the Milksop, Mortimer assumes the identity of the Bluejay, a legendary bandit created by Fenoglio in Inkheart, and joins their fight. Farid is still seeking a way to bring Dustfinger back from the dead and so is working for Orpheus in the hope that he will write the words that will free Dustfinger from the clutches of the White Women. Orpheus knows that Mortimer’s own brush with death has left him with the power to summon the White Women and so seeks to make a deal whereby he will write Mortimer and his family back into the real world in exchange for his helping to resurrect Dustfinger. But, in the guise of the Bluejay, Mortimer has also made a deal with the Princess Violante to kill her father the Addheread, the tyrant who Mortimer helped to become immortal. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Meggie’s aunt Elinor is mourning the family that she has lost within the pages of Inkheart and is seeking a way to join them.
Inkdeath is a truly complex story in its own right as well as being the culmination of the many strands of events and characters that flowed throughout Inkheart and Inkspell. With so much back-story to remember and so many new characters or, indeed, old characters with new names, the plot summaries provided by Funke at the start of Inkdeath were a real boon. In fact, while Inkheart and Inkspell were clearly children’s books, the complexity, length and darkness of Inkdeath make it seem better suited to an older audience, perhaps teens rather than 9 – 12s. However, while Inkdeath is a bit slow to get going, there is no reason why younger children who are game for something of a challenge in their reading can’t enjoy Inkdeath and, given the immense popularity of the previous novels in the trilogy, it seems likely that most readers will want to see Meggie’s story through to the end.