Wednesday, 3 July 2019

‘Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun’ by Guillermo del Toro & Cornelia Funke


How was I ever supposed to pass this novel by? Below I will go into a little bit more detail about why a novelization of Pan’s Labyrinth would have drawn me in straight away, but let’s just say that I adore it wholeheartedly. This actually meant that I went into the reading of it almost fearfully. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? How would this affect the way I saw the film? Would it at all? So many questions, and yet del Toro and Funke were safe hands to place myself in. Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book.

Pub. Date: 7/2/2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
You shouldn't come in here. You could get lost. It has happened before. I'll tell you the story one day, if you want to hear it. 
In fairy tales, there are men and there are wolves, there are beasts and dead parents, there are girls and forests. 
Ofelia knows all this, like any young woman with a head full of stories. And she sees right away what the Capitán is, in his immaculate uniform, boots and gloves, smiling: a wolf. 
But nothing can prepare her for the fevered reality of the Capitán's eerie house, in the midst of a dense forest which conceals many things: half-remembered stories of lost babies; renegade resistance fighters hiding from the army; a labyrinth; beasts and fairies. 
There is no one to keep Ofelia safe as the labyrinth beckons her into her own story, where the monstrous and the human are inextricable, where myths pulse with living blood ...

Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the first movies I discovered on my own and for myself. I read about it in an article in, I believe, The Spiegel, and then convinced my German granddad to buy the DVD when I visited him shortly after. So there we were, both lovers of literature and fairy tales, and we were utterly swept away by the sheer beauty of del Toro’s film. We were also shocked by the violence of the Capin, oddly fascinated yet disgusted by the Pale Man, and heartbroken at the end. Pan’s Labyrinth is a film I have never stopped loving and have found new appreciation for again and again. Meanwhile Cornelia Funke was a big part of my childhood from the moment Inkheart landed in my lap. My father read it to me as I was young in what became a very meta experience. As he read to me of characters being read to life, Funke’s story was brought to life for me. It was perhaps the first novel to make me think of books and characters as things that were real and that could affect your life. Together, del Toro and Funke’s works have played major roles in shaping how I look at stories, so the coming together of the two in this adaptation of Pan’s Labyrinth is simply too much.

Pan's Labyrinth is a story about magic and childhood, about loss and pain, about love and hate. Ofelia is cast adrift in a new surrounding, a mill engulfed by a forest. Her father has died and her mother has married the Capin, a fear-inspiring and cruel man. Ofelia's only escapes are fairy tales, until a fairy takes her to a labyrinth, where a faun explains to her that she is a princess and must complete three tasks to regain her place in her underground kingdom. Magic and reality begin to collide, as everything around Ofelia unravels. This novel is not just a retelling of the film, it is a broadening of the whole experience. del Toro's film is focused largely on Ofelia, although we do get some insight into the inner lives of the adult characters. This novel delves into their personalities much more, showing us the fragility of Carmen, Ofelia's mother, the steel that runs through Mercedes, and the mercilessness of the Capitán. It also provides the labyrinth and Ofelia's origin with more background and I loved discovering this new aspect of the story. It brings an even more legendary feel to a movie that is already steeped in lore. In the end, both on its own and in addition to the film, Pan's Labyrinth is a great read.

Pan's Labyrinth is a retelling that celebrates its new medium and invites new readers to its story. Although the film is definitely R-Rated, the novel leans more towards the YA genre. Its writing is generally simple but evocative, with the dialogue kept to a minimum and relying mostly on showing rather than telling. Part of the reason why Pan's Labyrinth is such a beautiful and meaningful story is that it is very fantastical and yet incredibly grounded. del Toro and Funke find a great balance between highlighting the magic of the natural world, the precociousness of a child, and the horror of the human world. It all comes together into a story that transports the reader. At times Pan's Labyrinth feels a bit like a fable, as del Toro and Funke don't shy away from putting the moral right there on the page. However, it doesn't overwhelm the novel and rather adds to its fairy tale-esque feel. There are also some beautiful phrases in this novel, many in relation to magic, love and storytelling. One that stood out to me early on in the novel is below:
'The letters were like footprints in the snow, a wide white landscape untouched by pain, unharmed by memories too dark to keep, too sweet to let go of.'
Stories such as these transport the reader, showing them a path that may lead through pain and hardship but also leads to the sweet things. I simply adored del Toro and Funke's Pan's Labyrinth.

I give this novel...
5 Universes!

It should have come as no surprise that I would love the novelization of Pan's Labyrinth since I adored the movie. del Toro and Funke expand beautifully upon the existing story, adding new layers to both the characters and the narrative itself. Anyone who has loved the film or is looking for an enchanting and engrossing fantasy novel, this is the read for you!

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