Title: Pan’s Labyrinth
Authors: Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Adult Fiction
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Summary (from Netgalley):
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 …
(BIG THANKS TO NETGALLEY FOR THE ARC; IN EXCHANGE, HERE IS ONE HONEST REVIEW)
One of my most vivid memories of GCSE Spanish is watching in mute horror as the Pale Man bit a faerie in half.
Pan’s Labyrinth inspired a fear in me that I don’t think I’ve come across in a film since. It’s fantasy, but it’s dark. It’s twisted. There is only the tiniest sliver of hope woven through the entire thing.
That is precisely what this book is built upon. It’s a faithful adaptation of the film, with beautiful imagery that adds to the fantasy. You really get the sense of a faerytale come to life with this – of course Ofelia is the princess. How could she not be? Vidal is every inch the Wolf, hunting his prey through the pages, right to the very last. It’s actually (somehow!) darker than I remember – this isn’t a children’s book, and you could just barely justify it as YA.
I’m a huge fan of this being an adult fantasy with a child protagonist – it takes me right back to when I was a kid, reading fantasy to escape from my world, but has the darker tone that I’ve come to appreciate from more “grown-up” works. The whole theme of reality being as dangerous (if not more so!) than fantasy is captivating; as an adult I think I get that more than when I watched the film.
To go back to Vidal for second – I think he’s probably one of my favourite antagonists, because he’s such a bastard. He’s razor sharp, Ofelia labels him a wolf, but he’s still human, and we all know that humans are the scariest monsters of all. I think the most terrifying thing is that everyone knows someone like this. We all know someone who refuses to acknowledge when they’re wrong, who acts only in their own self-interests, and the fact that they can so easily become a villain is horrific.
Mercedes, on the other hand, is my hero. She’s truly one of the strongest, bravest, most loving female characters I’ve ever come across and lemme tell you something – she is badass. There were a couple of scenes that had me quietly cheering alone in my room, and honestly, just pick this up for her alone.
Something I LOVED was the inclusion of the older “faerytales”, the myths that build up the world that Ofelia is just now stepping into. The serve to enrich the narrative, adding a whole other layer of depth to the legend of the labyrinth. I think I perhaps need to reread this one to properly appreciate just how seamlessly everything slots together; as it is, I kinda raced through the novel because it was just so. damn. good.
Pan’s character has also always confused me a little. I’m never really sure on what his relationship with Ofelia is, and that isn’t really cleared up in this novel. However, I think the mystery is a part of the story, so I’m not going to complain too much – the human characters make up most of the story anyway.
(Spoilers for ending now)
The ending is rather bittersweet; my feelings toward it remain the same as they were when I first watched it. I’m always slightly disappointed, as I expected Ofelia to find her “true” happy ending with Mercedes. Of course she deserves the happy ending she gets – that’s what the entire novel is about, after all. I just feel that the totally separate land she goes to betrays the bond she forms with Mercedes and her baby brother.
Maybe that’s the point, though: fantasy has no place in this reality. Despite all the tales interwoven throughout the book suggesting otherwise, it does seem that magic in our world is dead. To experience true happiness, you must leave this world – all it can offer is pain and suffering, and the inevitable marching of time that means you’ll one day be forgotten.
I’ve gone into Lit student mode with that analysis, I am now realising, and it’s really rather bleak. So, in an effort to make this a smidge more cheerful, I will reiterate the fact that this book has magic!! And a happy ending!! And faeries!!
It’s a wonderful novel which I read largely over the course of one day – if you’re a fan of the film (or fantasy in general) then what are you waiting for? Go get your mitts on a copy of this!!
Does anyone else love this film? Plan on reading the book? Let me know down in the comments!!
Lots of love,