Title: Pan’s Labyrinth
Author: Guillermo Del Toro and Cornelia Funke
Genre: Fantasy/Magic Realism
Rating: 5 Stars
“Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and 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.”
* * *
Where do I even begin? What a masterpiece.
If you have seen the movie “Pan’s Labyrinth” by Guillermo del Toro, you won’t only know that this is a great story but that this man weaves incredible fairytales. The movie is entirely in Spanish so if you don’t know the language you have to pay close attention to the subtitles. It was an amazing movie, but this novelisation blew it out of the water.
Ofelia is thirteen years old and has recently lost her father. Her mother quickly remarried Captain Ernesto Vidal, an army man who is determined to rid Spain of the rebellion against the country’s current regime. Her mother is heavily pregnant with her half-brother when they move into an old mill in rural Spain where the Captain is organising his troops to destroy the rebels.
When Ofelia explores an ancient labyrinth nearby, she encounters fairies and a Faun, made of wood and with sage advice for her. Ofelia learns that she is a princess from the Underground Kingdom who became lost in the human world after her curiosity got the better of her. If she is to return to the realm in which she truly belongs, Ofelia must complete several tasks to prove that she has not become mortal.
All the while, a war is raging around her. Ofelia’s new step-father is a monster who prides himself on his vicious methods and merciless attitude. He cares nothing for her mother, only for the son that she carries for him. Ofelia’s mother is so ill and trying to create her own fairytale in which Vidal will love and take care of her, that she is a shadow of the mother she once was to Ofelia.
What I didn’t know when watching the movie is that the Underground Kingdom and the Upper Kingdom (our world) are connected. The characters living lives in our world also have a history in the Underground Kingdom. Through a series of literary snapshots, the authors tell short fairytales that open up the histories of all the characters in the book and even the settings. It was incredible to read that everyone and everything in this story was so closely connected in both kingdoms.
Ofelia’s struggle was so heart-breaking. She lost a father who loved her very much and her mother became someone she no longer recognised. Yet she still soldiered on to try and reach her homeland.
Vidal is the perfect villain. Every evil act has a motive and when his perfectly structured life has even the smallest blemish, he becomes even more monstrous. He is a truly terrifying antagonist in every sense and without spoiling anything, I thought the end of his fairytale fit him like a glove.
This book reads a lot like a fairytale but it is so grounded in the 20th century. This creates an unnerving yet spectacular sense of the magic happening right here, where we live. While the story has Brother’s Grimm elements in the darker, grittier parts, it still has a childhood fairytale feel. The merging of two different worlds and styles is perfection.
Needless to say, I’m giving this one a full five stars.
I couldn’t recommend this book enough, so go and get your copy at this link here. Ideally in the gorgeous hardback copy that I have!
Thanks for reading! Did you know I also write urban fantasy books? Check them out here!