Review: ‘Stardust’ by Neil GaimanPosted: August 25, 2016
Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.
Given how old Stardust* is, I debated whether or not to write a review for it, especially as I don’t think Mr Gaiman really needs my validation one way or the other. Still, maybe someone will read this—someone like me, who has been under a rock this whole time and hasn’t seen the movie either—and decide the book is right up their alley.
Also, any excuse to share my various Instagram pictures! 😉
Stardust is a quick read, so thin that you might be forgiven for mistaking it for middle grade fiction. But there are a few scenes in there that are for an older audience; the book is based on the old-school, original Grimm fairy tales (from before they sanitised them for children), and Gaiman deliberately includes bloodthirsty, selfish witches, a trio of murdering princes, and many other fairy tale trappings.
The writing is beautiful, as always, with some long, lovely sentences that evoked an old-world feel without being difficult to absorb. The story was largely quite predictable (also like fairy tales) and the main character, Tristran, was a little dense at first. Okay, a lot dense—though maybe I’m being unkind. Maybe his head was just full of romantic notions and a teenage crush, and he got swept away by both. Still, given that he largely seems to be a kind lad, the way he treats the star at first is unfathomable. And if it weren’t for the aid he receives (largely as a result of his good manners) he’d have been killed or lost in the first few minutes of entering Faerie.
The relationship between him and the star is never really fully developed. Because there’s a lot of hand-waving around events as they travel, she seems to go from “I hate you” to quietly loving him without the transition being obvious. Again, this does suit the fairy tale style—I can’t think of a single fairy tale that has a genuine romance storyline—but it wasn’t as satisfying to read as it could have been.
The setting, though, is delightful: quixotic, unforgiving, beautiful Faerie. The characters weren’t what immersed me in the story; it was the world itself. Gaiman is no doubt a master of his craft, with a vivid imagination and a tremendous ability to execute his story. For me, that’s what brought this book up to a four-star read. I’d highly recommend it for fans of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings.
*Note: Not the kind in Pokemon GO.
In case you missed it, last week I was over at Aussie Owned and Read talking about pitching contests — why I used to enter them, and why I don’t anymore.