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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. (Oct.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Gr 5-9-This final volume in the trilogy returns readers to Inkworld and its wide cast of characters. Under the rule of the evil Adderhead, it is a bleak and dangerous place. General gloominess bogs down the pace initially, as several characters agonize, sometimes tiresomely, over past regrets and the dire uncertainty of the future. Meggie, despite her gift of magical reading, remains a disappointingly dull protagonist, but other characters are quite compelling. Her bookbinding father, for instance, emerges as a swashbuckling outlaw, and, when he brings the fire-dancer Dustfinger back from the dead, things get really interesting. The assortment of villains is vivid and frightening, especially Mortola, who can change shape, and the immortal Adderhead. Even more intriguing is Mo, who evolves into a powerful and complex scoundrel as he explores the evil potential of his unique ability to make up stories, then read them into reality. The finale includes a thoroughly engrossing climax as the Adderhead and Mo meet their doom, though a subplot involving Meggie and her companions is less exciting. Despite occasional weaknesses in plotting and characterization, Funke successfully explores ideas of fate, free will, and the power of story in a multilayered tale with many dramatic moments, bringing the series to a satisfying conclusion. Summaries of the first two books and a list of names and places are provided for those new to the series, but this last installment will be appreciated most by readers who start with the first title.-Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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