Release Date: October 28, 1998
Publisher: Headline Review
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Stardust is an utterly charming fairy tale in the tradition of The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story. Neil Gaiman, creator of the darkly elegant Sandman comics and author of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, tells the story of young Tristran Thorn and his adventures in the land of Faerie. One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love.
“A wise man once said: “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at the stars because we are human?” Pointless, really. Now, do the stars gaze back? That is a question.”
Okay, so I’m not really what you’d call a Neil Gaiman fan, and really only picked up the first book I’d ever read, Coraline, because I’d watched the movie and absolutely loved it. Even if it did creep me the fuck out. But after reading Stardust, I’m starting to understand the hype.
Stardust tells the tale of a young man called Tristran Thorn, who lives in a village that takes its name from the wall that separates the village from elsewhere. Beginning before Tristran’s birth, we’re told the story of how his parents came to meet; we learn that Tristran is a little bit different that every other child in his village.Years later, when the girl of his dreams gives Tristran a quest to bring back a fallen star, he leaves behind his ordinary village life and crosses the wall to a land far different to the one he’s lived in all his life. On the other side of the wall, fallen stars are beautiful girls whose hearts are coveted by witches, the ruling monarchy makes a tradition out of murder and where magic exists in abundance all across the land.
I really enjoyed this book; the prose was beautiful and very, very funny. The world Gaiman invented was like falling into a fairytale but with an edge – there are parts of the novel that illustrate just how much this wasn’t intended as a story for children. The somewhat macabre humour, such as the witches who grew old and decrepit waiting for the vitality of a fallen star to revive them, or the seven princes who one by one killed each other for their father’s throne, really appealed to me. I also think that one of the most appealing aspects of this book is the main female character – our fallen star so coveted by everyone. She was brilliantly sarcastic, cynical and so much fun when paired up with the bumbling, endearing Tristran. Gaiman created this relationship formed from two completely different characters that are thrown together and yet find what they were both looking for in each other. It wasn’t just hilarious but quite romantic without being over the top, I thought.
I also don’t know if this is a popular opinion or just something I tend to like in the books I read but the ending was perfect to me. It was another way of differentiating the book from all the fairytales written for children, I thought, but it was also bittersweet and sad without taking away from the wonderful journey these characters had all been through.
Um, I don’t actually know if this is a good review but I genuinely didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone because this book, and Neil Gaiman, are something everyone should experience in their life. And hey, if you don’t particularly enjoy fairytales there’s always Coraline *whistles*