Life in the Inkworld has been far from easy since the extraordinary events of Inkspell, when the story of Inkheart magically drew Meggie, Mo and Dustfinger back into its pages.With Dustfinger dead, and the evil Adderhead now in control, the story in which they are all caught has taken an unhappy turn. Even Elinor, left alone in the real world, believes her family to be lost - lost between the covers of a book. But as winter comes on there is reason to hope - if only Meggie and Mo can rewrite the wrongs of the past and make a dangerous pact with death.
This concluding volume in Funke's bestselling trilogy picks up where Inkspell left off, but sputters for a hundred pages filling in backstory. (Even then, an addendum is needed to identify a cast of 114 characters.) The Inkworld, full of dark magic, is under siege; the savagery of the Adderhead and his minions now extends to taking all the peasants' children until somebody delivers, as ransom, the Bluejay, a Robin Hood style character whose identity has been assumed by Mo, Meggie's father (it was Mo who started all the trouble by reading several villains right out of the book-within-a-book, Inkheart don't even consider reading this series out of order). The Inkheart author, Fenoglio, now living in Inkworld himself, has turned to drink; the odious Orpheus, when he's not under a maid's skirt, rewrites Fenoglio's work (editors!) to benefit himself. The interesting metafictional questions can we alter destiny? shape our own fate? are overwhelmed by the breakneck action, yet the villains aren't fully realized. More disappointingly, the formerly feisty Meggie, barely into her teens, has little to do but choose between two suitors. Funke seems to have forgotten her original installment was published for children. Ages 9 up.