Friday, February 6, 2009

The blood flows like ink

I received an ARC of Inkdeath sometime after Annual last year courtesy of a colleague, and eagerly opened it once I realized that I wouldn't be listening to the audiobook for committee purposes. And, I could not get through it! I gave up sometime in December at Chapter 22 and the book looked up at me accusingly all during our snowy weeks while I was indulging in some adult literature. "Read me," it demanded, "you always finish what you start!"

Since I finished with the Amazing Audiobooks listening a couple of weeks ago (and the Odyssey listening has yet to begin), I've been casting about for things to listen to. I was packing up the last two years of deliveries when my eyes lighted upon the audio version. omg! I could listen to the rest of it. Why not have Allan Corduner do the heavy lifting? I can just sit back and enjoy.

Cornelia Funke first captured me with The Thief Lord and then with Inkheart. Inkspell was a bit more problematic, but I was still there. Alas, the spell of the Inkworld broke for me on this installment. It would be difficult to summarize the nearly 20-hour behemoth, so suffice it to say that evil, death and torture are everywhere, Mo finds he likes being an action hero, the women suffer and suffer, and Meggie becomes a whining ditherer -- in her infrequent appearances in the story. I was certain that no happy endings were possible; here's a slight spoiler ... this is not the case. I don't think I could have taken it if it were.

The audio was missing two things that the book has: a cast of characters list at the end of the book, which I found helpful in my initial reading, and the lovely quotes about reading and books that begin every chapter. I didn't miss the former (although I can only think that a reader who was exclusively listening would be deeply confused at the beginning of the story -- sometimes I wish authors would recognize that most of us are not steeped in the minutiae of the previous novels ... there's a whole lot of ...heart and ...spell that I simply don't remember). I did wish for the latter, though. I know I've complained about listening to chapter-heading quotes, information, whatever (see Chains) in the past, but I wonder why they were edited from this story. (I listened to Lynn Redgrave's wonderful reading of Inkheart five years ago and vaguely remember them being there, but I could be wrong.)

I like Corduner's reading style (and his acting style), having listened to his outstanding interpretation of The Book Thief as well as one of the Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom titles. He's got a slight, very pleasing lisp that doesn't get in the way of his reading. He infuses the narrative with emotion (and this is a very emotional story), knows how to use pacing to create tension and feeling, and creates memorable characters with accents and delivery. He's not a showman like Jim Dale (and I mean that in the most respectful way), but there are some memorable voices from Inkdeath that I can still hear in my head.

Despite his skills -- and I do thank him for getting me through this book -- Inkdeath was a deep disappointment. I remember reading somewhere that Funke wrote each installment for a different age group, with Inkdeath for high schoolers and young adults. Surely she knows that her younger readers are ready to inhale the series in one long gulp; they aren't going to wait until they are "ready" for it. And Inkdeath is really about adults -- it's about the longing of Mo to be both the action hero and the loving husband and father, it's about the marriage of Dustfinger and Roxane who have spent more time apart than together, it's about Violante wanting and defying her father's approval. Gosh, even Fenoglio and Elinor have a quirky relationship. Meggie and Farid are sideshows to these stories and neither of them are especially appealing here. Like the Deathly Hallows, this book is catalogued j in my library's collection, when it really should be y. But even Rowling never forgot that her story was about three teenagers.

Still, there's no denying Funke's talents. Her website says something about being wrapped up in a Reckless world ... I wonder what that means. But I don't wonder that I'll be curious to read it when it appears.

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