Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke REVIEW

Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke give the cult classic Pan’s Labyrinth the novelisation it so rightly deserves.

pan's labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth recounts the events of the 2006 film. Taking place during the Spanish civil war, the story follows Ofelia, as she and her pregnant mother move into a mill, where the mother’s new husband, Captain Vidal, is stationed. Life seems bleak for Ofelia at first, but the forest surrounding the mill is very old and hides many secrets for the curious soul, including a mysterious labyrinth…

Written by cinematic master Guillermo del Toro – who wrote and directed the original movie – and literary genius Cornelia Funke, this book is a wonderful interpretation of the dark fantasy film. Acting as something as a fairy tale for adults, the book expands on the original premise. Through writing, the book effectively reflects on the perspectives of the characters in a way that visual media just can’t. The third person perspective certainly helps a lot in this.

As well as the main story, it additionally includes short anecdotes which build on the overall plot, reinforcing the theme of predetermined destiny and challenging a question that fans have been asking for a long time: are the supernatural events all part of Ofelia’s imagination or is this all real? They don’t steal away from the main storyline, and are welcome additions.

As previously mentioned, the language of the book also reflects the fairy-tale nature of the story, reading like something Ofelia may have in her library – though, unlike her own collection, this may not have a happy ending. The best way to describe the writing is ‘simplistically poetic’: it doesn’t try to do anything extravagant or fancy in the way it’s written, but it still has a sense of poetry about it, an easy-to-follow eloquence that makes for a pleasurable read.

Throughout the novel are beautifully drawn illustrations, depicting different scenes and characters, like the aforementioned Pan and the terrifying Pale Man. The book is split up into ten sections, and each of these drawings can be found at the start of each. These small gems make for nice breaks and the art alone is reason enough to buy the book.

While readers may be discouraged by film novelisations for basically retelling the same story, it would be foolish to leave Pan’s Labyrinth alone. Reading this is a wonderful re-exploration of a beautiful and terrifying world, merging the horrors of reality and the wonders of fantasy just as well as the film did, if not better.

Review copy provided

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Pan’s Labyrinth is a great example of what a novelisation can do to add onto the original source material. A must buy for existing fans and a wonderful introduction for those new to the story.

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