Nothing can really exist, if there is no word to call it or describe it. Things start becoming real when pronounced aloud. Words have great importance, which is clear to Meggie, even if she is only thirteen. They are powerful arms, able to save or destroy lives. From her father Mortimer, Maggie learned the importance of books; from a mysterious man who appeared out of their home, she will learn the importance of reading aloud. Written by Cornelia Funke and published in 2003, Inkheart is the first book composing the Inkworld Trilogy. It sold more than five million copies in the world and in 2008 it was released as a homonymous movie, directed by Iain Softley.

A strange man in the night

Mortimer is an expert bookbinder: as long as Meggie can remember, her father has always been fixing old volumes. Despite the deep feeling, he taught her for books, Mortimer has never read a single line to his daughter. Since Meggie’s mother disappeared when she was a baby, she learned to read by herself at a very young age.

During a stormy night, while she is reading by candlelight, she notices a man outside of their home. Maggie has no idea of who he is, nor what he is doing in the rain, so she calls her father. Mortimer knows the man and lets him in: his name is Dustfinger. He has red, long hair and three deep scars on his face. He tells Mortimer that Capricorn is looking for him; the girl doesn’t understand, but her father looks very worried.

The next morning, Mortimer announces to Maggie they will go to visit her aunt, who has some old books that need to be restored. So, while her father works, she spends a lot of time with Dustfinger. One night he organizes a fire show, leaving Maggie enchanted. Until they all find out it was only a diversion to help Capricorn. He needs Mortimer’s power: his voice can evoke characters out of books. Not without risk: for every character brought into the world, someone is sent in the book. As has happened to Maggie’s mother.

Changing the world through the reader voice

After the discovery of Mortimer’s power, the story continues to follow two storylines in two worlds. In fact, the characters’ lives in books don’t stop when their story ends: they evolve as it happens on earth, and everything that occurs between the two worlds has consequences both inside and outside the book.

Like many other fantasy tales, the narration thus involves two totally different realities, populated by different people. On the one hand, there’s our world, around the beginning of the 21st Century, with common people. On the other hand, a medieval world, in which the main characters are acrobats, tamers, and knife-throwers. But differently from other stories settled over two worlds, it is impossible to go from reality to another deliberately.

In the TV series Westworld, the Far-West styled world turns out to be a funfair with a normal entrance and exit. But Inkheart doesn’t work this way. Not even Mortimer can predict who will come out from a book, nor who will disappear in the real world. Great importance is given to the act of reading and to the figure of the reader, given the power to let people travel between the two worlds. In a sense, the whole story is a metaphor of the importance of reading aloud: as William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet stated, nothing really exists before someone pronounces it aloud and before it has a name. Books have always been a way to travel and visit real and unreal places without making a single step. They still are doors to fantastic fantasy worlds, inviting readers in. Inkheart makes those journeys possible, giving importance to the act of reading aloud and to the reader, whose voice has the power to enchant people and let the journey begin.