So, I've been putting off reading this book for at least two years, not been trying to find and failing but actively avoiding it. I got introduced to Cornelia Funke in middle school and loved The Thief Lord and Dragon Rider but I never liked Inkheart as much (and found myself disliking it more with each rewatch) and was pretty annoyed with Inkspell for reasons I don't quite remember. That would've been early high school since I remember finishing up Inkspell right before Inkdeath came out in the US (so, late junior year, early senior year) so between the fact that I hadn't really liked the other two books and Inkdeath is 600 pages long I avoided it for two years. But I decided that it was about time to get to it so I grabbed it from the school library and got cracking.
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Summary: Directly following the events of Inkspell (so, spoilers!) Meggie, her family (Resa and Mo), Fengolio, and Orpheus are all still stuck in the world of Inkheart and, after the events in Inkspell are all are taking it differently. And, even if none of them are original characters to the story they drive the plot as Inkheart proves once again that it is much more and much more different than it's creator even imagined while the characters try to wrangle it into a happy ending.
The Good: Well, I liked it better than Inkspell thank god and I think I liked it better than Inkheart as well. There were some sections where Funke gets really creative with either her characters or her setting and I was pretty happy at how Maggie's romantic subplot was resolved in the end (not so happy about some of the other romantic subplots but I was unhappy that they were even there in the first place). To me it feels like Funke is better at writing straight fantasy and putting interesting twists on it rather than writing about characters who are struggling with themselves. She just seems to pull off action better so when the book was in a more heavily fantasy section I really did love it.
The Bad: Maggie. She's one of if not the most central character, and probably supposed to be the point of reference for the audience, but I just don't like her. She's apparently 12 in the books but she acts more like a 16 year old who isn't sure whether she wants to listen to her parents' reason or go have a rebellion. You can say she's mature all you like and I'll keep saying bull, 12 year olds, no matter how much trauma they go through, just aren't that mature and it's something that ticked me off in MG reading for years. Also, I loved the book when the characters were actively trying to, well, not do something but go against the world and make it work for them. That was pretty cool but the rest of the time it came off as a mid fantasy trying to be a high fantasy and I'm already pretty picky about my high fantasy. I do wonder if something was lost in the translation but I'm pretty sure it's a very good and sound translation so whatever it was that made me a little, twitchy I guess, about the story was there in the original German. One final nitpick, this series as a whole doesn't feel like a trilogy. Unless I miss my mark, this was originally planned as a trilogy it feels like the first book was certain, did amazing, and then the author did a sequel but it was too big to fit in one book and split it in two. Diana Wynne Jones once described trilogies (and I'm paraphrasing since I don't have my copy of The Travelers Guide to Fantasyland with me) that the first book introduces the problem, the second book ends with pretty much the same problem the first one did and then the third one wraps it up. That's not quite the problem here but it doesn't feel cohesive enough (also, Funke seems to have a fixation on fairy tales since I saw a new book by her recently in a bookstore and the general themes, not the plot, sounds suspiciously like a re-hash of this).
Alright, this may sound a bit strange, but I started reading this and went "Holy cow, why am I getting Princess Tutu vibes here?" Both this book (and possibly Inkspell, I can't recall many specifics about that plot right now) and the second half of Princess Tutu have a lot of focus on characters defying their fate, defying the story, and fighting the creator all the way to a happy ending (the quote "There is happiness for those who accept their fate. There is
glory for those who defy their fate." comes to mind more than once). Oddly enough I watched Princess Tutu in 2008*, yes the exact time I was avoiding Inkdeath and I think I appreciate Inkdeath a bit more now since I have seen something thematically similar. And dangit, I've been wanting to rewatch Tutu for months now anyway and I just have too much stuff to watch. Maybe over winter break if I haven't loaned it out then...
*I remember because not only did I get the (ugly) DVD set afterwords but loaned it to a friend whose little sister stole it and would not give it back for MONTHS. I kid you not, I loaned the set to my friend right before Christmas break started and didn't get it back to after Easter, that's four months and a similar thing happens every other time I've loaned it out since.