Image: A teal background with black and grey illustrations of human and inhuman figures surrounding text that reads: "Guillermo del Toro. Cornelia Funke. Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun."

Young Adult Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo del Toro, Cornelia Funke, and Allen Williams


Synopsis

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.


Details

  • Title: Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun
  • Authors: Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke
  • Illustrator: Allen Williams
  • Cover Artist: Allen Williams
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • ISBN: 0062414461
  • Publication Date: July 2, 2019
  • For Ages: 14+
  • Category: Young Adult
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 😿 Spooky-Sad.

I’d like to thank Katherine Tegen Books for providing a copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for review consideration.


Review

Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun is an intriguing novelization of Guillermo del Toro’s beautiful and tragic fairy tale film Pan’s Labyrinth. Set in Spain during World War II, the story follows Ofelia, a little girl whose recently widowed mother has married a captain in Franco’s army. Ofelia and her mother, who is in the late stages of pregnancy, travel to the forest where the captain is hunting down rebel soldiers. When Ofelia follows a fairy through the forest and discovers an ancient labyrinth, she learns from a mysterious faun that she is not Ofelia after all; she is the long-lost Princess Moanna of the Underworld, and she must complete three tasks before the next full moon in order to return to her kingdom to reclaim her rightful throne and regain her immortality.

The novel diverges from the movie in interesting and satisfying ways. While the film was ambiguous as to whether Ofelia’s fairy tale life was real, leaving the barrier between the real world and the world of myths and legends up to the interpretation of the viewer, the book establishes early on that there is no such ambiguity. The book tells us quite clearly that fairy tales and magic are more deeply true than the limited reality that most humans experience in their brief lives.

Pan's-Labyrinth-The-Labyrinth

Do not confuse the lack of ambiguity with a lack of nuance or suspense, though. With its expanded lore and room to maneuver within the fairy tale world, the book is able to explore the bittersweet tendrils of fate winding their way through the lives of humanity. Intricate, magical illustrations accompany brief fairy tales that intersperse the events of Ofelia’s time in the forest. These long-ago fairy tales reveal themselves to be just as much a part of Ofelia’s story as anything that has happened during her short lifetime, underscoring the circular nature of life and the inescapable hand of destiny.

Fans of the Pale Man, the monstrous child-eater from Ofelia’s second task who was played so brilliantly by Doug Jones in the film, will be pleased to know that he is just as frightening in this adaptation. I knew how the scene between Ofelia and the Pale Man was going to play out, but I was still on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading about their encounter. (Though I’m not sure how much of that is owed to my memory of Jones’s performance and the incredible special effects that went into making his character so truly horrifying. Luckily for readers who have never seen the film, there is an outstanding illustration of the monster in the book.)

Image: A black-and-white illustration of a faun, whose skin seems to be made of bark, standing in front of an old, gnarled tree as he speaks to a young girl wearing a white dress.

Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun is an elegiac love letter to fairy tales and a worthy companion piece that also stands strongly on its own. The novel is beautiful, poetic, and mournful in its pleas to the reader to fight for what is good and right and to open their eyes to the world around them…not just the world we’re used to seeing or the one that can be explained away by practical means, but the real world where fairies fly and witches cast spells and trees whisper stories about long-lost princesses to those who know how to listen.


Rating

Revisiting Ofelia’s story is one of my favorite ways to have my heart broken. I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.

5 Coffins


2 comments

  1. I never watched the film because I thought it would be too scary/violent for me, though I imagined I would love the fairy tale aspects of it. So I was very excited to read this adaptation by one of my favourite authors! I’m happy to read your review and know that the book stands on its own, being an accurate yet expanded version of the film’s story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It absolutely does–I love the film, so obviously that impacted my view of the book, but I don’t think you have to know the film at all to appreciate the book. They really are wonderfully complementary. (It’s been a long time since I last saw the film, so I can’t really remember how violent it was, but there were some scary parts!)

    Liked by 1 person

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