Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke have come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with haunting illustrations and enchanting short stories that flesh out the folklore of this fascinating world.
This spellbinding tale takes readers to a sinister, magical, and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous soldiers, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.
A brilliant collaboration between masterful storytellers that’s not to be missed.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.44 out of 5
2nd July 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books (another overdue ARC review!)
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Before I begin with my book review I need to tell you this Very Important Thing:
Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favourite movies.
There’s so much to adore about the movie; the stunning visuals and cinematography, the haunting musical score, the imaginative set design, the costumes and prosthetic’s, the acting (lord the acting) and of course…. the story which is so rich in atmosphere and imagination.
Pan’s Labyrinth is a tale about monsters, both the fairy tale variety and the human. It is about loneliness, freedom and hope. It is very much a dark fairy tale for adults that mixes the real world with a fantasy one and you never fully know whether the fantasy world is a lonely child’s escape (albeit a brutal one) from an even more vicious world or whether faun’s and fairies are real.
It was a movie that I had to look away from at times due to the level of realistic (and yet never gratuitous) violence and it definitely left me sobbing in parts. Me and my friend walked home from the cinema that evening in silence with an occasional muttering of ‘what the heck did we just watch?!’
I loved it when I first watched it and I love it now even though the Pale Man still terrifies me.
I think it’s strange that this book has been published 13 years after the release of the movie because I can’t see anything that would suggest a reason behind such random timing. No anniversary edition, no new movie release tie in – nothing like that.
However, because I loved the movie, I didn’t really question the timing of publication I just greedily accepted the promise of the book.
But I did have questions. As Ofelia has to perform three tasks I will ask and answer three questions. These are 1) does the book work as a YA novel when the movie is clearly for adults? 2) Does the book evoke the richly evocative world of the story? 3) Did I ugly cry and hide behind my hands and feel all those intense emotions?
Not really, no.
First I have to say that I don’t fully understand the point of this novel. Yes, it is an incredibly faithful adaptation to the story but it’s so faithful that it may as well have been a series of scene descriptions and that doesn’t really add anything to the world of Pan’s Labyrinth.
There are some brief additions to provide background to the underworld and its inhabitants but I’m going to be controversial here – I enjoyed the fantasy world when it was more ambiguous. These additions add nothing or even worse – served to remove mystery.
The story is well written but deciding to switch an adult fairy tale to a young adult fairy tale means the real life horror and dark fantastical elements have to be toned down yet in doing so the descriptions of some of the events come across rather bland.
Why was the story switched to YA? No clue, I don’t think it works in honesty.
Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t want YA’s reading in great detail about someone getting their face smashed in with a bottle (believe me, I don’t want detail either) but then if there are these moments in the story – why was this adapted into a YA book?
If we lose some of the ugliness in the retelling then we also lose some of the emotion.
The writing is fine but it feels rather perfunctory at times and everything seems presented as a step by step process. Ofelia does x, then she does y, z happens and then Ofelia feels x. Repeat.
This presentation of the story creates distance between the reader and the story, maybe it’s a way to cause a sense of disassociation between the YA audience and the more disturbing content but this also meant there were no sobs from me. If there’s a barrier then don’t be surprised if there’s no emotion felt.
The story of course, is wonderful because the story of Pan’s Labyrinth is wonderful. The way it’s been written and categorized – not so wonderful.
I seem to be an outlier on this one but this was disappointing.
The movie though? Watch it, re-watch it and hum Mercedes’ lullaby to yourself. Ensure you have tissues.