ARC Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

ARC Book Review.JPGPan's Labyrinth


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


Release Date

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.

My Rating

2 Star

10 thoughts on “ARC Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

  1. Aww, that’s genuinely a shame! I watched the movie so I could read the book, but now I’m wishing I could’ve read the book first so I could compare to the original. Not to mention, I’m such a fan of Cornelia Funke (though I admittedly haven’t read her later works), so this makes me sad. 😭

    Great review though! I’d probably feel the book is pointless too if it wasn’t going to bring anything new to something that was so great in the first place. I think I’ll be pushing this down my TBR to another time then!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I have never seen the film (I know, shame on me!) but I read the book this week and I feel quite mixed about it. While I enjoyed it I’ve certainly read better adult style fairytales such as The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Have you read that one?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      The film is definitely worth a watch and (obviously) I preferred it to the book which was sadly lacking. It would be good to see what your thoughts would be on the book once you’ve watched the movie but actually it’s interesting that you’re mixed on the book without having seen the movie because I wondered if my opinion was clouded in some way.

      What did/ didn’t work for you?

      *Gently wheezes* I adore The Book of Lost Things! I read it years ago and loved it and it’s been on my mind a lot recently that I went out an bought a copy so that I could re-read it – and I tend not to do re-reads! Such a fab book!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found the characters to be somewhat underdeveloped for a book. I kept thinking that they were simply based on fairytale stereotypes rather than fully exploring them as authentically existing in book format. And the plot was similar; I just felt the book was written in a more middle grade style even though it obviously is much darker than befits middle grade. But I just didn’t feel that character motivations were explored enough. The plot moved in such a straightforward line that there was nothing truly surprising or deeply chilling. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. I got the sense that it was expected that as a reader I should have been familiar with the original film and therefore as a reader I wouldn’t need the detail I was seeking.
        It’s a pity. It had great potential but for me it’s around a 3/3.5 read. And when I thought of The Book of Lost Things which I would class as a similar style novel it just paled in comparison.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree with what you’re saying re. characters and plot and it’s such a shame that it this is a middle grade book because I genuinely don’t understand how anyone felt they could take an adult movie like Pan’s Labyrinth with its human violence and fantasy horror and make it a successful middle grade story. Something there just isn’t working because it means that they had to dilute the story massively in book form.

          I agree also with the telling rather than showing. I felt a lot of the time the narration was rather prescriptive, it was more Ofelia took off her dress. Ofelia hung it on a branch. Ofelia went into the tree.

          Definitely watch the movie though, it is superb and oddly you feel the characters more than the book.

          Liked by 1 person

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