Wednesday 30 September 2020

Review! - Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of The Faun by Guillermo Del Toro and Cornelia Funke

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'Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun' against a background of a creepy forest

Title: Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of The Faun

'Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun' book cover with spooky forest and fairies and a girl walking into it

Author: Guillermo Del Toro and Cornelia Funke

Genre: Media Tie-In, Horror, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tales (-ish,) Magic Realism(-ish,) Young Adult (Maybe? Maybe just adult with YA appeal. It's kind of difficult to gage the age range here!)

A Few Starting Notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides reviewers with review copies as an opportunity to provide a fair and honest review.

I love the film Pan's Labyrinth, a Spanish-language film first released in 2006, from Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro.

It enjoys the niche status of a foreign-language film that's highly regarded by English-speaking critics, and loved and adored by a relatively small but very dedicated English-speaking audience.

And while I'm naturally wary of novelisations of films -

because they have a tendency to not be very good quality and be a cynical cash-grab of fans' hard-earned money

-  I figured that the combination of Del Toro and Cornelia Funke (who wrote Inkheart and a bunch of other fantasy) made it worth a shot. 

(I think I was right.)

The Premise:

The premise here is, basically, the premise of the film Pan's Labyrinth - but extended and expanded upon.

Our heroine is Ofelia, a small child who moves with her pregnant mother to the house that her step-father, an officer in Franco's fascist army, is occupying.

In the woods near the house (because there's always a woods, isn't there?) she finds a mysterious labyrinth, ruled over by Pan, the faun.

The magical Pan sends Ofelia on quests - and Ofelia, a lover of fairy-tales, feels like she's in an adventure story. 

The quests, though, are increasingly dangerous and horrifying, and Ofelia begins to doubt that the seemingly-benevolent faun has her best interests in mind...

Pan from Pan's Labyrinth (a fantastical horned creature): I am a faun
Via Giphy

The Best Bits:



Sorry, I just had to get that out.

Because this book is... WOW!

Like, the film was already wow, but somehow the book manages to expand on it and vividly conjure these images which were so striking from the movie.

And we get more depth.

We. Get. More. Depth!

Because interwoven with the main plot is some of the stories from Ofelia's fairy-tale book, which weave in so neatly and give more layers to the symbolism and events of the main narrative.

And they're deliciously off-key. 

- Gothic and creepy in that slightly wondrous way that only fairy-tale-style stories can really accomplish.

And we still have that simple-but-complex, everything-is-not-as-it-seems edge that keeps you on your metaphorical toes.

What is real here? 

The two worlds - or is it the two halves of the world? - that we inhabit are so entirely different to each other that, as the edges blur, things whip up to a Gothic fever-pitch.

The illustrations are breath-taking and retain that edge of questioning reality and off-key perceptions.

And the writing!

This is a film novelisation that is well written!!!! Really!!!!!

As in, I would have read this as a book in its own right. Honestly - cross my heart. It was good.

The Not-So Great-Bits:

This is gonna be way too dark for a lot of readers, ok? 

There's blood, gore, and very bad things happening left, right, and centre. 

There are horrible people who live in the European fascist dictatorship that the world left unpestered both pre, during, and post WW2.

The Spanish Civil War and Franco's dictatorship are things which Europe and the West like to collectively brush under the carpet, but here in this dark fantasy we also have the even darker reality.

Because of that darkness, I honestly have no clue what age group this book was aimed at. 

It's not Middle Grade, it's far too dark for that (unless your kid is a little gremlin who reads the original bloodthirsty versions of fairy-tales like I was - then you're probably OK.)

Honestly, I don't know what audience the original film was aimed at either - which kind of stays consistent, at least. 

The British age rating for the film is 12, if that helps - which honestly seems a little low to me, but maybe they were just as confused as I am.

It's the kind of thing that defies neat classifications (and I'm totally on board with that!)

Content Warnings:

- War and fascism
- Torture (graphic!)
- General violence and murder
- Horror elements pretty much everywhere
- Blood and gore
- Child abuse
- Child neglect
- Child murder
- Children being eaten
- Domestic abuse
- Bereavement
- Pregnancy problems
- Childbirth problems
- Inferred threat of sexual assault and violence

...I think that's everything, if I missed something please let me know!

The Verdict:


...I loved it.

If creepy and/or Gothic stuff is your thing, especially if you're a fan of the film, read it! I reckon you'll love it too.

Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth? Are you a fan?
Have you read Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun? What did you think?
Talk to me! 😊💬

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  1. Ooh, yay, I will have to keep an eye out for this! I found Pan's Labyrinth the movie a little scarier than what I wanted (though this was in part because I just had a very, very incorrect idea of what the movie was going to be), but I still was so impressed with how gorgeous and terrifying it was. Having it in book form seems better! I'm much better at reading about bottles in faces than actually witnessing someone get a bottle in the face! (As you can tell, that image from the film has stuck with me for the almost fifteen years since I saw that movie.)

    1. Ha, I'd actually forgotten that part... not sure what that says about me, tbh! XD

      But yeah the book totally rocks! <3

  2. I’ve heard great things from the movie but I’ve never seen it! But I have gotten really into gothic themed stuff lately so it could be worth a shot. I used to love the Inkheart books, but it’s been a while since I have revisited Funke’s books.

    1. Pan's Labyrinth is AMAZING - but it's also creepy af and leans heavily into the horror stuff, so just be aware of that! :)

      I read the first Inkheart book but never got around to the 2nd - I'm sure I will one of these days! <3


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