Weekend Herald - Canvas

Fantasy to fawn over

- — Reviewed by Yasmina Gillies

PAN’S LABYRINTH: THE LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke (Bloomsbury, $33) Thirteen years after the success of the dark fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth, described as “Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups”, comes an equally visionary novel adaptation, co-written by the film’s writer and director Guillermo del Toro and award-winning writer Cornelia Funke, best known for her Inkheart trilogy.

This adaptation remains loyal to the film in its magical yet sinister tone, while the storyline is expanded upon through stories within stories that weave together a deep, layered folklore.

In the midst of a war-torn Spain, 13-year-old Ofelia moves away from her home with her ailing pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather Vidal, a cruel and power-hungry captain.

Through the hardships of Ofelia’s life and the uncertaint­y of her future, she takes refuge in fairy tales and storybooks, which she sees as “windows and doors, paper wings to help her fly away”. When Ofelia encounters a small fairy-like creature in the forest, the magic and enchantmen­t of her beloved books starts to creep into the rest of her life.

She is led to a faun who claims she is Moanna, a long-lost princess of the world beneath the ground. Ofelia is given three tasks to complete before the next full moon to prove her essence is intact and she has not become mortal. What follows is a wildly enchanting tale full of whimsical characters — heroes, villains, witches, fauns, giant toads and a child-eating monster, in stark contrast to the bleak reality of fascist Spain.

Funke has stated that fantasy is “the sharpest tool to develop and unveil all the miracles and the terrors of our reality”. Pan’s Labyrinth serves as a testament to this. Masterful storytelli­ng and lyrical prose complete with Allen Williams’ wistful illustrati­ons make for a magical and memorable read. This book will provide fans of the film with dark, expansive insights into the mystical world it created and should be welcomed by readers of Funke’s previous books.

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