272 pages Expected publication: July 2nd 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
I’m watching Pan’s Labyrinth as I write this review because it seems like the right thing to do. As one of my favorite movies of all time, I had to request this title from Edelweiss. I told them I would give them a leg to be able to review this title. Since they allowed me this honor, I think one of my legs now belongs to Katherine Tegen. This review may contain spoilers for those who have not seen the movie.
When I first saw Pan’s Labyrinth in the theater, I knew right away that it would cement a place in my heart. Now only did it have the magic, it had the brutality of reality coexisting. Whether Ofelia truly saw all the things she did is up to interpretation. This book made clear some of those things but still left it up to you. It also went into detail some of the histories of the mill where Ofelia and her mother come to live, and tells some tales of Princess Moanna that we weren’t quite aware of in the movie.
“It is said that, long, long ago, there lived a princess in an underground realm, where neither lies no pain exist, who dreamt of the human world.”
The story opens with the short tale of Princess Moanna, who wished to see the world above her own. But upon arriving above ground, she forgot who she was and wandered the world until she died. Knowing her spirit would never die, her father the king never gave up looking for her.
Spain 1944. Thirteen-year-old Ofelia arrives at an old mill with her pregnant mother where they would come to live with Capitan Vidal, a sadist whose only goal is to kill the rebels and deliver a healthy son. Ofelia knows he’s sour straight away, but avoids him for the sake of her mother. Vidal, to me, is one of the scariest villains I’ve ever seen on screen and he is no different in the book. Ofelia stumbles upon a labyrinth on the land where she meets Pan, a faun who tells her that she is the reincarnation of Princess Moanna, but to be sure, she must carry out three tasks. With each task, Ofelia tests the limits of bravery and will. In one of the tensest scenes in movie history, she meets The Pale Man (we find out about this monster’s history in one of the chapters!) on one of these tasks and barely makes it out alive. Having made a grave mistake during her confrontation with the creature, Pan disavows Ofelia.
“Our worst fears are always underneath us, hidden, shaking the ground we wish to be firm and safe.”
All the while, one of the workers at the mill, Mercedes, is aiding the rebels. One of which is her brother. Along with her in betraying Vidal is Dr. Ferreira who works closely with Vidal and Carmen, Ofelia’s mother during her difficult pregnancy. In them, we see another type of bravery, which is far greater than anything seeing who they answer to. Vidal is a monster and to betray such a man is risking your very life.
The story comes together as Carmen dies giving birth, and Mercedes is discovered as a spy. Wrought with sadness, Pan comes to Ofelia, telling her he will allow her one last chance to prove herself. He tells her to bring her baby brother to the labyrinth. Meanwhile, Mercedes is captured and escapes by seriously injuring Vidal. Upon arriving at the labyrinth with her brother, Ofelia discovers that Pain wants her to spill a bit of his blood to open the portal back to their world. But Ofelia refuses to harm her brother. In response, the faun disappears, and Vidal comes to reclaim his son and shoots Ofelia.
“In our choices, lies our fate.”
Mercedes and her brother Pedro await Vidal when he tries to exit the labyrinth and, only after taking the infant from him, shoot him dead, assuring him he would never know his son and his son would never know of him. Ofelia finds herself in a place where her mother and father are well and alive. As are the fairies she had lost to The Pale Man. Pan explains that she had completed the final task and had finally come home.
This book does not gloss over the violent scenes that jarred us in the movie. I found myself skipping one particular. Let it be known that this is not a kid’s story. It is brutal and emotional. To go into further detail of what was real and what was not, I tend to lean in the direction that everything Ofelia experienced was real and the books seem to elude to that, BUT different will see different things and may feel like it leaned more to that everything was in Ofelia’s head. As a child of war, she is overcome by loss and worry. We see it all through her eyes, which is devastating to anyone.
Guillermo, according to an article I once read, says that he hates words, but his collaboration with Funke tells a different story. Nothing can compare to the cinematic wonder that is one of his best works, but this book does a great job complimenting it. The violence of the real world echoes in the tasks Ofelia must complete. There are some great posts online detailing these so it would be good for those who are interested so my review doesn’t get too long-winded. Part of me hopes, GDT reads this review. Since Katherine Tegen has lain claim to one of my legs, I might as well offer the other to know he’s read this and knows that his movies (and books) have touched my life. I hope this one does the same for you, dear readers.