Review: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – the Novelisation

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Fifteen-year-old Sarah accidentally wishes her baby half-brother, Toby, away to the Goblin King Jareth who will keep Toby if Sarah does not complete his Labyrinth in thirteen hours.

Finally back in print and for the first time in hardcover is the novelization of LABYRINTH written by A.C.H. Smith and personally overseen by Jim Henson. This is the first in a series of novels from the Jim Henson Archives. This beautiful hardcover features unpublished goblin illustrations by legendary illustrator and concept artist Brian Froud and an exclusive peek into Jim Henson’s creative process with 50 never-before-seen pages from his personal journal, detailing the initial conception of his ideas for LABYRINTH.

I waited a long time to review this book. If you know me, you know the film is one of my favourite things in the history of favourite things; I love it. Eighties fantasy films make me happy in a way that no other film makes me happy. As such, while I was wildly excited to get my grabby, little hands on this book, I was also quite apprehensive: I wasn’t sure how it would translate to writing, it’s such a vivid film, I wasn’t sure it was possible for it to be as good in written form.

My worries were unfounded. It is a brilliant rendition and I recommend it to anyone who can’t get into the film – my best friend wasn’t entirely enamoured by the singing (and crotch-magic-crotchiness of a certain scene) but once I force this book into her hands, I think she will really enjoy it. Perhaps force is a strong word, I don’t think I would have to force her to read it.

It translates really well and brings a new angle to the film that I wasn’t expecting. Getting to read the thoughts and feelings of the characters rather than simply seeing it on screen gives the story a lot more depth. As an avid fan, I am pleased. I know I am somewhat slow on the ball with this one – the book was released some time before and then made out of print – but, for once, I am really glad to have been slow. This edition, as it says above, includes some of Froud’s unpublished goblin illustrations and notes from Jim Henson’s journal and  is beautifully presented. Not to mention it’s part of a series alongside The Storyteller and The Dark Crystal, both of which are calling to my twitchy fingers.

Characterisation is, as to be expected, en pointe – my favourite is still the junk lady and the fireys still freak me out a little; the descriptions of familiar settings and scenes are wonderful, I particularly love everything in the goblin city; and Jareth is still, well, Jareth. Songs are replaced instead with dialogue and altered scenes, which I rather enjoyed and overall, I am incredibly happy with it.

If you like Labyrinth, do yourself a favour and read this book. If you don’t like Labyrinth but think you could, maybe, if not for all that singing, do yourself a favour and read this book. Heck, if you don’t like it anyway, read the book and you might find that you do!

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