Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke 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 gorgeous and haunting illustrations.
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.
Warnings: graphic violence, implied torture, death of family member, mentions of war
I haven’t seen the movie (I’ve often thought to, but I keep forgetting to do it) so I went into this book with not much of an idea of what the story would be about, so I will not be able to tell you if you will enjoy this as much as the movie. As a story, it is brutal, dark and yet speaks to so much about love. Ofelia comes to the military outpost (an abandoned mill) of her stepfather with her heavily pregnant mother and discovers a labyrinth to a hidden magical kingdom that has been waiting for her, if only she fulfills the tasks set. The labyrinth itself was constructed to lead the lost princess back home, centuries after she left it and came to the mortal world; many denizens of the Underworld kingdom have made efforts to help bring her back and that is what is woven in many things across the story.
Now, the story is mainly told through the eyes of Ofelia, Capitan Vidal (her stepfather) and Mercedes (a maid in his employ) but as it is a third person perspective, it often switches characters. Ofelia wants to escape to the kingdom because the mortal world is populated by monsters (this is set during WWII, in Spain), one of whom is her sadistic stepfather, who seeks to uproot the rebels hiding in the nearby forest. Mercedes’ brother Pedro is one of the rebels, and she spies on the Capitan as well as smuggles out supplies. Besides telling the story in the present, the book often jumps back in time to tell mini-fairytales about other aspects and things in the story, like the story of the princess when she came to the mortal world, and the witch Rocio who showed her the way to answers, the story about a watchmaker, the story about the mill itself, and much more. While they don’t directly affect the plot in the present, they set up a magical world with old tropes.
During Ofelia’s three tests, she has to face down creatures and monsters, yet the one thing that scares her the most is her human stepfather. The book subtly draws parallels between the monstrous actions of the various monsters in the story, be it Vidal or the Pale Man. The Faun who is testing her himself is a shady character she can’t entirely trust, and it is also a story of her learning to decide when to obey and when to not. With or without her magical aids, the girl possesses a fierce heart, which Mercedes recognizes. She feels for the girl and cares for her, and that and her love for her brother drive her actions during the book, and helps her stand up against the fear Vidal tries to drive in her. Vidal’s story tells more about the flawed glory of war, of honor and masculinity tied into a noose that keeps taking one generation after another.
Overall, I loved the multi-layered plot, and the fact that it tackles many themes even in its short length, giving us a dark and emotional story.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss.
Released on July 2, 2019