Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

GENRE: fantasy

In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall. Young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is as cold and distant as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky one evening. For the prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the star for his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town’s ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining.

I broke my own rule with this book: I watched the movie before I read the novel, but in this case, this did not bother me.

The story begins with our hero Tristran’s unusual birth. It seems that almost everyone knows the truth about Tristran’s parentage, except for Tristran himself. His father and his adoptive mother keep this a secret from Tristran and he only finds out the truth at the very end of the novel. Tristran is an ordinary, awkward, shy and not very elegant young man of 18 years of age when his chance for adventure presents itself. He is in love with the beauty of the village, Victoria, and although she treats him like a little boy and doesn’t care about him, he wants to prove his love for her by promising her he will bring her the fallen star they saw fall in the lands beyond the village wall. The villagers are not allowed to cross the wall, with the exception of every nine years, when the people from the world beyond the wall have market day by the wall. However, the guards allow Tristran to pass, as they know he is one of “those people”.

During the adventure, Tristran is helped by good magical creatures, which is an element of fairy-tales. Stardust really is a fairy-tale. Magic and fairy-tale elements are everywhere. Tristran finds the star, surprised to find out that it looks like a young lady. They don’t go along very well at the beginning because Tristran takes her captive, for Victoria. Eventually, they become reluctant friends in a situation that forces the star to be kind to him. The tale gets intense when we find out that other people of that world are after the star and their reasons are far less noble than Tristran’s. He wants the star to make his love happy, whereas others want her out of greed. She is chased by a powerful witch queen and the heirs of the Stormhold, which is the place where kings of this world rule. Like in every proper fairy-tale, those driven by greed do not succeed and even meet a tragic, if not a bit gory end. There is a bit of gore, or at least colourful violence in this novel, which is why this is a fairy-tale written for adults and not children.

I loved Gaiman’s personification of stars. He gave them life, a culture and a history. It made me look at the night sky and wonder about stars and their mother Moon. Stars in the magical world became magical creatures of goodness, unicorns acting as their allies and protectors. That was really beautiful and magical to me. Also, Gaiman made a great parallel to the “real” world. What is only a fairy-tale or a nursery rhyme in our world is a reality in the magical world beyond the wall of the village Wall. Trees are alive and whisper to you, mysterious furry creatures help you and witches haunt you. It’s a vivid world of fairy-tales. Gaiman is really good at creating parallel worlds.

At the end of the journey, the hero, Tristran, is changed. He is mature and confident, and finally knows very clearly what he wants in his life. His transformation is great. The ending was to my liking. One of the “villains” was even given a chance to be forgiven. In classical fairy-tales, all villains end up suffering or dead, but Gaiman gave one of them a second chance. One can draw a nice moral lesson from this. All is well in the end for most of the characters, like it should be in a fairy-tale.

Gaiman created great, unique characters, a great parallel world and a great story. If you like modern fairy-tales for adults, this book is perfect for you. It’s not very long (my edition has only 197 pages) and it is very lovely and fun to read. There’s magic, there’s excitement and there's a happy ending. There are a few instances of naughtiness, too. After all, this is a fairy-tale for adults. And remember, anything can happen in Faerie.

THIS MISS RATES: / (4.5 stars)


Midnyte Reader said...

I loved both book and movie too!

Bethany said...

I've seen the film, and really liked it. Never read any Gaiman, but I plan on reading this sometime soon - I think it'd be a nice introduction!

Introverted Jen said...

I do love this book and I'm so glad you did too! I've heard so many people who saw the movie first say that they dislike the book and I'm always disappointed in that. I thought it was just a magical book. I believe it might have actually been my first Gaiman and I've been making my way through his work ever since.