Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is one of the many articles/review that I have reblogged from Caffeine Crew, the collaborative geek blog I write for.  I am in the process of truly posting these here on my personal blog.  While they will be edited for any prior missed errors, I will not be really updating them beyond that so some information could potentially be outdated, erroneous, or defunct.

There are some words that will ever haunt you.

Stardust Cover

“They say that each night, when the duties of state permit, she climbs on foot, and limps, alone, to the highest peak of the palace, where she stands for hour after hour, seeming not to notice the cold peak winds. She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”

I picked up Neil Gaiman’s American Gods years ago, because I heard nothing but wonderful things about him as an author. Could not get into it. His writing was too rough around the edges for the girls who loves all things lyrical and flowing. I ran headlong into the same conundrum when I looked through Neverwhere so I wrote off Gaiman as one of those authors that other people loved and cherished, but that I would never really like. Obviously, he is very brilliant and successful (hell he’s co-written a few Doctor Who episodes), but there was just a stylistic discrepancy that I couldn’t reconciled, kind of how I’m viewing Cassandra Clare.

It’s odd how similar points of view can move in opposite directions.  I now am quite fond of Gaiman, so much so I’ve added both the above mentioned books to my Goodreads list (American Gods is going to be a TV series, though I’d like to read it first) in addition to not only adding but purchasing The Graveyard Book, but I’ve cultivated a stronger, negative opinion of Clare.  Not to the point of Stephanie Meyers or E.L. James, but I’m older, more cynical, and less inclined to concessions with my opinion.  I don’t think she’s the worst author out there, but I don’t really like her.  Granted, I also realized I really don’t like YA all that much (Harry Potter and Hunger Games being two notable exceptions…maybe the series just has to begin with the letter “H”), so my dislike of Clare may just be spillover…though The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite standalone novel and has been for a few years *shrug*

Stardust was different. Here was that magical, flowing, fairy tale language that I crave with a few harsh patches to keep things interesting. It follows the adventures of young Tristran (for the first half the tale, I thought it was Tristan, which is waaaay easier to pronounce) Thorn in his quest through the land of Faerie to find a fallen star in order to fulfill a promise made to the lovely Victoria Forester whom Tristran (along with every other young man in the village of Wall) is enamored of. Victoria promises to give Tristan his heart’s desire if he brings this back to her, but when she says it, she’s only indulging the fantasies of silly shop boy, never dreaming that he would seriously seek to complete such a quest.

The village of Wall sits on the edge of the Faerie world and once every nine years a magical market takes place in the meadow just beyond. *spoiler* The story begins prior to Tristran being born and actually ends after his death, which I found very clever, because it showed that while he is a major player in the turnings of the world, he was not the end all and be all of the world itself. *end spoiler* While Tristran is out on his quest to find this star for love, a witch-queen is also seeking it for the burning heart of a star will bestow eternal youth on her and her sisters, and along side of this there is also a family blood fuel occurring involving three (though once seven) brothers for the right of succession to the mountainous Stormhold.

The star, Tristran discovers, is not a lump of cold, lifeless metal as he had thought to find, but a beautiful girl with a blue dress, white blonde hair, and a broken leg from where she’d fallen out of the sky. He binds her with a silver chain made out of materials meant to hold magical/mystical things, and she, of course, hates him for this, but as the journey continues they both change.

*spoiler* By the time they return to Wall, after thwarting the witch-queen and resolving the issue of the succession, Tristran realizes that his heart’s desire was found in the quest itself, and Vicky Forester was actually betrothed to another prior to their conversation, hence her indulgence of his fantasies.

That bugged me to no end and I was hoping the tale would end as it did, because frankly I thought Victoria Forester was a vindictive twit, and that Tristran could do much better. I was also bothered by the fact that he was willing to drag this poor star along with him with her broken leg in order to fulfill a promise to a woman who clearly was playing him for a fool. It made me think less of the character, but ingeniously, this was Gaiman’s intent. The hope that he would turn things around kept me reading, and I’m very happy I was not disappointed. *end spoiler*

The language and world building in this story are phenomenal. As I said it’s fairytale with rough edges, but polishing such would ruin the effect. You are left with the idea that much more could be said about the world of Faerie where Tristran dares to venture. Gaiman also incorporates common myths and legends into his world to give you a sense of familiarity. Things such as the battle between the lion and the unicorn along with the hidden loopholes and obligations in all magical things. I really can find no fault with this story, need to watch the movie, and I believe I will be reading his Coraline next.

4 and a half stars.

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