Archive for The Labyrinth

Not quite a haunted house, but still out to get you

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Junior fiction, Middle fiction, Movies, Science fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by Cara Marie

I was going to write review of all the urban fantasy I’ve been reading this month, but when I started I got distracted by sentient buildings. Buildings that are always changing; buildings that want to trick you, want to test you. Buildings with a mind of their own.

Tanya Huff’s Wizard of the Grove was a formative instance of this for me, as it was for so much else in the sf genre. It’s what appealed to me so much in The Secret Garden: the idea of a house so large it can actually hold secrets. It probably dates back to The Labyrinth for me, to the geography of a place that wants to trick you, a place that is always changing, that has a mind of its own. You go into the house, maybe, or you go underground. Did the underworld Persephone wandered through change around her? Would the pomegranate tree be there for anyone else?

I was thinking about this as I finished Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Courtlight (late) last night. Our hero Kaylin is called to the Barrani courts, where the building predates any civilisation still extant. The buildings the Barrani lords make their homes in have an inconstant geography, as we saw in the first book of this series, but Courtlight goes further with it.

We see the ways in which Barrani life is inseparable from these buildings, the ways in which they test themselves against the buildings, against the intelligence behind the buildings themselves. It is not necessarily a friendly one, and indeed there is a dark secret behind the tests the Barrani take. This is what kept me gripped through the long hours of the night.

Further instances of buildings that like to keep you on your toes:

  • The house in Flora Segunda, Crackpot Hall. Which is also a boy, if it wants. The main reason I fell so badly for this book was the house – when oh when will Flora’s Dare come out in paperback so I can at last buy a copy?
  • Probably the best known, Hogwarts. What with the Room of Requirement, the near bountiless potential for exploration… The Philosopher’s Stone is probably the most literal example of the test, but the geography of Hogwarts forms a key element in later books as well.
  • Tanya Huff’s The Better Part of Valor. In this one, instead of a building we have ‘Big Yellow’, a mysterious spaceship with rooms that shape themselves to the memories of those who come inside, which tests them, and which seems to have its own intelligence. To explain any further would be a spoiler for later books, but it’s pretty awesome!
  • The Tanya Huff book that started it all for me, Wizard of the Grove. Which was written as two books. In the second one, Crystal and her companions venture into the lair of a long dead wizard; but wizards love games, and time has not dulled its danger. Crystal has to pull some serious badass-ery to get them out of this, and personally, I think I’d rather the a less malevolent building.
  • Chilblain Hall, the home of Glister in Andi Watson’s comics for young girls. Chilblain Hall is always changing, always presenting Glister with something new and exciting, and, as we see in The House Hunt, it is a house that can get in a huff. The nicest house of the lot.
  • In Tanith Lee’s Claidi books, there are many large houses, and many secrets. That of Wolf Star Rise fits best in this category: the rooms physically, palpably move round. It’s less old magic and more steampunk. This was my favourite of the Claidi books: the Rise is probably why.
  • The icon for this post is particularly relevant, as it’s taken from the Gormenghast miniseries. The rooms of Gormenghast might not move around, but castle is big enough that you could never know it all – and it definitely has a presence of its own.
  • And for movies, what else was The Cube? Probably the closest of the books in terms of the nastiness of the tests is Wizard of the Grove, but unlike any of these books, The Cube is definitely horror. The tests aren’t really to be overcome; you are pitted against your companions as much as against yourself. It is probably all a ginormous metaphor.

Buildings always change in dreams. A favourite of mine was when my brain took this to its logical conclusion and assumed I must be in some kind of alien construction where the house was out to get me; it didn’t want me there, and it changed its best to kill my group off. Sarah’s Labyrinth may not be real – its her own inner landscape she pits herself against, perhaps. The logic of these houses may be very much like dream logic; you cannot approach them rationally. You have to trust to your own wits and instincts that you can take what the building throws at you, that you can navigate through and not be forever lost. And if you stay still, you lose.


Posted in Fantasy, Manga, Middle fiction, Movies with tags , , on January 31, 2006 by Cara Marie


I’m reading a Tokyopop press release. This may not sound that exciting, but it seriously is. It’s to do with ‘manga’ adaptions of a certain three films, and I’m just sitting here squealing. But I can’t believe I didn’t know already. I would’ve thought that Neil Gaiman would have mentioned it on his blog – because the three films are The Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and Mirrormask. That’s two of my favourite films and one that, though I haven’t yet seen it, I know will be.

The Labyrinth one is a sequel, dealing with the topic I always thought would be the best for a sequel: Toby. It always seemed obvious to me, although of course it depends on how you interpret the film – because if it was all in Sarah’s head, it’s not going to affect Toby at all. But if Toby did actually spend that time in The Labyrinth, then it’s got to have affected him. And it would be interesting to see how. So I’m very excited about that, not just because it’s The Labyrinth, but because it’s what I wanted to see explored in a sequel.

The other two are prequels, and Neil Gaiman is plotting the Mirrormask one, which is why I’m surprised I didn’t already know, but I got distracted with The Dark Crystal when it mentioned they’re making a sequel. It’s being directed by Brian Henson, and it’s just like… finding all this out at once… I’m surprised my brain’s not exploding. I’m not worried about any of them being messed up, because it’s just too exciting!