All right, got that off my chest, so, ahem. The book was nice. Charming, entertaining, interesting. I liked the characters, though I can't say I loved any of them--still good for me, since most authors can't seem to do kids with a single-digit age without making them a serious pain in the neck. Cornelia Funke has got that part down. The writing was clear and fine enough that I could get around the occasional Italian phrases that I had to look up.
But the ENDING. Oh, man, the ending seriously made me want to give it 1 or 2 stars. I read it a while ago, though, so looking back on it now, I think I feel a bit more objective. 3 stars to balance out a book that was 90% good.
Beware: there will be spoilers below.
They introduced the idea of the merry-go-round pretty late into the book, like the author realized she needed a core element for a plot and threw it in so she could end the book firmly. I was even okay with that. I kept thinking, "it isn't real magic, it's only a myth. They'll find that out, and then..." I was still interested. I kept reading. Even up to the point where they found the MGR, I kept thinking, "this is still good. I like the MGR. Good descriptions, good setting, what happens next?"
Next: they turn a dude I hated into a little kid, and the kid who was my favorite character--the thief lord, of course--gets turned into an A-D-U-L-T. And, while I was staring in indignation and horror and outright disgust, the entire thing falls apart and the book ends. Leaving Scipio stuck in an adult's body.
Now, I don't actually remember how old he was--somewhere between ten and fourteen, I think--but just imagine your kid, or your younger sibling, or your niece or nephew or whatever, suddenly getting more than half a decade older at that point. He/she would NOT be okay, would not just put on a hat and a trench-coat and get back to his life as if nothing had happened. The mentality of that plot twist is just unfathomable to me.
WHY did she introduce the stupid magic element in the first place, especially so late into a book that was good without it, and WHY did she not reverse the effects, or something?
I like Cornelia Funke. The Inkheart books are really, really good, and Dragon Rider is a great kid's book, bar the plane-flying rats. I expected better of her than this. I think that's why the betrayal hurts so badly.