Enjoyable read but a lot of violence and not a favourable look on Christianity.
Meggie Folchart is the daughter of a bookbinder named Mortimer, or "Mo" as she always calls him. Both father and daughter love books immensely. Their house is full of books, chairs, tables and corners are all covered with stacks of them. Mo has an amazing voice but he never, ever reads aloud - but why? Meggie has no idea. And she has no idea what is happening when a mysterious man, whom her father calls Dustfinger, shows up outside in the dead of night. But Mo does, and he packs up his daughter and a few books and swiftly moves to Meggie's Great Aunt Elinor's house. Will Meggie ever find out what the mysterious book is that her father hides from her? And if she does, will she be able to do anything about it?
For the most part the good guys are good and noble and the bad guys are very evil except for one. Dustfinger is a complicated character who sways from the good side to the bad side as it suits his wants. Despite his questionable character, he is definitely written for the audience to sympathize with and his actions are made to seem almost understandable considering the situation and his hard life, though he still does get the consequences of his actions to some extent.
On the bright side, family, self sacrifice and courage are strongly promoted.
Elinor's room where she keeps her best books is referred to as her "holy of holies". Capricorn uses an abandoned church as his head quarters. He has a statue of himself there and pretty much sets up worship of himself. Capricorn's henchman, Basta, is exceedingly superstitious. He wears a rabbit foot and avoids black cats, etc. Farid, a boy who comes into the book later on, is afraid of ghosts. There are no over-arching anti-Christian things but where the book does make reference to Christianity, it is not portrayed in a very good light. It makes a reference to "That dreary man with all the Bibles" and to a point in history where apparently the poor were only allowed books from the Bible for instruction.
Lots of it. Many people are hit and threatened with knives. The story of Dustfinger's scars is a violent one. Meggie contemplates biting her tongue hard to make it swell up to try and keep the bad guys from forcing her to help them. Throughout the story there are many terrifying moments. The bad guys are exceedingly cruel. Little children are threatened with knives and the main characters are hunted down and kept in dark dungeons. Houses are burned down. The violence is not very graphic, but the reader doesn't really feel safe till nearly the very end of the story.
Drug and Alcohol Content
When Dustfinger is caught giving a note to Meggie, while in Capricorn's dungeon, he tells the bad guy that it was a note for her to get him some wine.
It is mentioned that Capricorn gives gifts such as necklaces to some of his maids who please him. Elinor fears what he might do to Meggie when she gets older. Dustfinger attempts to keep a man and his wife from reuniting for several reasons, the first being that he is in love with her himself (no violent passions are mentioned, nor anything of the sort) and the other being that he is angry with the man. Basta, it is briefly mentioned, makes advances on Capricorn's maids.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
There is a good bit of swearing, and unfortunately not all of it is by the bad guys. Elinor swears when angry, using such words as "d*mn" and "b****y."
This was an enjoyable book, but it certainly has it flaws. The book is in some ways nearly a classic because of its satisfying ending and the reader's wish to re-read it. Love of family is promoted and literacy and reading are shown very positively with illiteracy being a major handicap to the villains. Cornelia Funke is a very talented author bringing imaginative characters to life with an exciting plot, but she lacks an important part in her worldview and it shows. The two brief references to Christianity are opposed to it and the morality is deficient in places. And so even if it weren't for the heavy violence I would only recommend this book for older kids who have a stronger handle on what they believe and can identify the problems in it.