Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro & Cornelia Funke – Book Review

Hello Humans! Now, friends will know that this year I had something of a revelation. Now, please don’t judge me, but until this year I fully believed that Pan’s Labyrinth and Labyrinth were the same films. Yes, having never seen either I just assumed that the film with David Bowie and the film with the scary hand-eye man were the same. No, I can’t explain it either. Although I’d watch that film…

So, having cleared up which I should expect, I began reading the novelisation of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which I assume is being published off the back of the success of The Shape of Water novelisation? Anyway, this is co-authored by Cornelia Funke which gave me high hopes as The Thief Lord was one of my favourite books growing up. After steeling myself for no David Bowie I got stuck in…

Pan's Labyrinth

Goodreads Summary:

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for sceptics 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.

Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)

I want to start by talking about the gorgeous illustrations that start each section. I know this doesn’t necessarily impact whether or not you’ll buy, read, or enjoy a book, but as someone who hadn’t seen the film before reading it was nice to get a glimpse of the aesthetic. Obviously, the fairytale vibe comes through in the writing, but the addition of those illustrations took me back to the old books of fairytales I had as a child, with little drawings at the start of each story. I’m not sure if that was the intention but it was certainly the feeling I had.

I am a sucker for that fairytale writing style. I know not everyone enjoys it, but in a book like this, I’m not sure it could have gone any other way. Yes, it is steeped in allegory and metaphor but it manages to not feel silly (maybe this is coloured by the fact that I recently read Finale and that has a lot of silly similes. This manages to feel utterly timeless, despite the fact that it has such a clear historical setting. Again, I haven’t seen the film, but the clips that I have seen also manage to capture that ‘a world apart’ feeling so I would imagine this is true to the aesthetic and the mood of the film.

It’s hard to deny that it is a good plot. I like that it pulls those fairytale tropes of three tasks, guardians and guides and so forth into a historical setting that is still comparatively modern. I wasn’t sure if that would work in a book, whether it would throw off the pacing of the book, more often than not stories start with the premise of three tasks and then spin off into something completely different, with the tasks as a framework for a wider plot. I’d say this is less true here, the tasks have more importance to the main plot, though there is an element of ‘more is going on here than meets the eye’.

While you get a good sense of the childlike quality of Ophelia, nonetheless she still feels quite generic to me. In another story, I might see that as a negative, but in this case, I think it hearkens back to that fairytale nature (drink every time I reference fairytales?) and that sense that this could be anyone, that this could be you. I’m not suggesting I’d want to take Ophelia’s place in the story, and I’m certainly not suggesting I’d make some of the choices she makes (you were given clear instructions how did you manage to mess this up?) but I would certainly like a peek into this strange world.

This would be a great book if, like me, you have yet to see the film. I’ll be interested to see how those who adore the film find the novelisation. I personally thought that some of the prose felt a little stilted but wonder if that might be part of the process of going from screen to page?

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Pan’s Labyrinth comes out July 2nd!

Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)

What say you? Will you be reading this novelisation? Should David Bowie feature? Let me know in the comments below!


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