"Hark, the footsteps of the night
Fade in silence long.
Quiet chirps my reading light
Like a cricket's song.
Books inviting us to read
On the bookshelves stand.
Piers for bridges that will lead
Rainer Maria Rilke, "Vigils III," from Sacrifice to the Lares
I was very wary of this book. As I said in my review of its predecessor, Inkspell, I felt that that chapter had relied too much on there being a third book to come. I was also wary of Funke's choice of focus and the possibility of the dead coming back to life. I was disappointed. But that's part of the reason that I didn't wait so long to read this one. (Yes, I waited over three months, but it took me twice as long to pick up the preceding book after I read Inkheart.)
After my dissatisfaction with the lead-in from Inkspell, I was very very happily impressed with this book. Inkdeath is ripe with the heady and heavy themes you'd expect of its name, but the treatment of those themes really dazzled me. The invisible but omnipresent and omnipotent characters of life and death are expanded exponentially within these pages, and it's as if the reader can finally feel the weight of the choices made by each person.
What I loved most was the division within Mortimer -- we understand that he is Mortimer and the bookbinder and the Bluejay, and we feel his inner conflict. Inkheart is really about Meggie, for me. Inkspell is about Dustfinger. In Inkdeath, Mo really reaches the height of his character. And maybe it helps that he lives like two men in one, but I finally felt in-touch with him and I was (for lack of a better word) dazzled by the transformation within him.
As for the other characters, I was finally satisfied in the expansion of Violante's character (and Jacopo's) as well as Resa's. But I stand by the fact that Elinor and Darius still felt excessive once we were in the Inkworld. Their inclusion is tidy...almost a little too tidy. They weren't really necessary and didn't contribute much to the story on the whole, but they *just* fit in. Orpheus, however...I had said of Inkspell that he was like a glob of gunk on the beautiful pages, that I didn't think we needed to meet him as early as we did. But in this book I understood the necessity--it builds him up as an antagonist, eventually increases the love Brianna has for her father, and serves to open up the space for Doria to step in.
Doria brings up more questions though -- if Orpheus had never come to Inkworld, would Fenoglio's story for Doria still have come true? It calls into question the boundaries between what is written and what is yet to occur. Are all of our destinies written out, waiting to fall into place with our every misstep, or are our missteps also destined? Are we all living out someone's literary whim?
That was my favorite part about the very end...even if it IS very tidy, Funke has stayed true to her emphasis- the question of reality. The child, living in the Inkworld, dreams of the land his parents came from, and how "it must be exciting in that other world, much more exciting than in his own." Are all worlds, even the one we live in, scripted in ink and parchment? Do we only need the right words written by the right person, and the right reader with the right voice to read us out of our stories and onto the pages of another?
As a final bit of business, I need to applaud translator Anthea Bell's work on this series. A good translator can sometimes be hard to find, but Cornelia Funke's words are in the hands of a goddess with Bell. With a very few minor errors* you wouldn't realize that it hadn't been written in English to begin with. Bravissima.
* The only error I could recall after reading is on Page 515 of the hardcover edition (Scholastic). Orpheus says, of Night-Mares: " 'The strolling players say they are the dead sent back by the White Women because even they couldn't wash the dark stains from their souls. So they condemn them to wander without human bodies, driven by their own darkness, in a world that is no longer theirs...until they are finally extinguished, eaten away by the air they can't breathe, burned by the sun from which nobody protects them. But until that happens they are like hungry dogs--very hungry.' " The concept is that they have no flesh to protect them, not that they have no other persons to protect them. So this should be "no body" instead of "nobody."