Book Review: “Labyrinth” (The Novelization)

Cover of the novelization of Jim Henson's "Labyrinth" written by A.C.H. Smith and illustrated by Brian Froud
Cover of the novelization of Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth” written by A.C.H. Smith and illustrated by Brian Froud.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing the novelization of the Jim Henson film “Labyrinth,” written by A.C.H. Smith and illustrated by Brian Froud! Most are probably aware of the actual film existing more than a novelization of said film. However, I was really interested to see how the writers wrote the film its official novelized form and so I figured it was worth reading.

As a disclaimer: I saw the movie first long before seeking out the novelization and reading it. There will definitely be bias coming into play here in this review. As another note, I highly recommend watching the movie. I really enjoyed it for its aesthetics, music, story, and characters. I also want to add that the novelization also includes behind-the-scenes notes about the movie, but that won’t be part of the review since it’s not part of the story.

Plot Development: 5 out of 5 stars

The plot of the story is the same as the movie, since it’s a novelization of the movie. However, even movie fans will enjoy reading this story. However, there are three main differences I noticed. Two are more specific to the plot that I’ll discuss here. The third one counts more toward character development and I’ll talk about it in that section.

The first of the two differences in the book is the ballroom scene. The overall purpose of the scene (Jareth trying to get Sarah to forget about her baby brother Toby) is the same. However, I felt that the book’s version of this scene leaned more heavily on the ‘romantic’ aspects than the film did. Jareth tries to actually kiss Sarah in the book, unlike the film. It helped me as a reader get a glimpse of the romantic fantasies that Sarah might be enamored with. However, this same scene did a great job of showing the darker side of the ballroom as well, especially as Sarah is escaping the scene.

The second main difference I saw was the ending. Sarah saves baby Toby at the end and denounces Jareth’s power like the film. But after Sarah and Toby return to their world, Sarah does not have a dance party at the end like in the film with the other Labyrinth characters. Instead, it ends on a more somber note. Sarah says goodbye to the friends she made along her journey (Didymus, Ludo, and Hoggle) and promises not to forget them. It’s also implied to be Jareth in his owl form watching from outside. This is a slightly more bittersweet ending than the film. But I felt that it was fitting to show the contrast between Sarah at the beginning vs. Sarah at the end. Sarah at the end has ‘grown up’ in a sense.

Worldbuilding Development: 5 out of 5 stars

The titular labyrinth was fun to read about. The book described the Helping Hands, the Bog of Eternal Stench, and the film’s iconic ballroom scene very well. It helped me as a reader step into Sarah’s shoes and get immersed in the entire world. Even though the book is devoid of musical numbers, unlike the film. However the great description of the world Sarah traverses through, and its characters, hugely makes up for it.

Character Development: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading all the characters in this book. The novelization differs from the movie because it gives more details on characters’ inner thoughts, particularly Sarah’s. One main difference between the book and the film is that readers learn about Sarah’s mother and the actor she left Sarah’s father for. This gives some great backstory on some of the factors that affected Sarah’s initial behaviour at the beginning of the story. It also helps fill in a few gaps that the film couldn’t fit in as seamlessly/had to cut out for time.

The reader also has the chance to read more of Hoggle’s internal thoughts, as well as Jareth’s. It was fun to read what they were thinking through in their heads, what they planned to do. It also showed how the events of the story changed them and/or their decision-making. Their character development is ultimately the same as the film. However, I thought that it was fun to see a bit of their perspectives.

Overall, I’m rating this book 5 out of 5 stars!

This book might easily become one of the best books I’ve read this year, if not the best book. However, if you enjoyed watching the film, I highly encourage you to pick up the book.

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