Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Just finished reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I loved this book – now, I genuinely don’t know whether it’s just that I’m made up with Neil Gaiman who seems able to do no wrong for me or not but I just fell right into this story and was absorbed until the end. Gaiman has such a great way with words and manages to tell a fairy story that is different and aimed at an adult audience.
Stardust brings to us Tristan Thorn. Tristan was born as a result of one night’s passion between Dunstan Thorn and a not entirely human slave he meets one night when he goes to the Market over the wall. Nine months later Dunstan receives a little bundle of job – left, almost, on his doorstep.
The Village of Wall is a sheltered and olde world Victorian village with old fashioned ways and customs. The Village is nestled right up alongside The Wall (for which it is probably named) beyond which are strange comings and goings. Beyond the Wall is where Tristan must go to bring back a falling star for his lady love. He’s about to embark on a strange adventure with no end of imagination. If you can imagine it, it’s probably in this book.
I love the way that Gaiman brings together a fairy story without it seeming like a cliche. We have Wall – and beyond we have this strange world where anything can happen. Just like in your childhood stories – Once upon a time, over the hill and far away…. It’s just brilliant. Puts me in mind of Norrell and Strange – where the strange world of the fey once was known to us but the paths to it have now been lost – the paths beyond the wall remain but few tread there without a purpose. Once every nine years a market appears in the meadow beyond the wall and at this point the residents of the village mingle with the strange and unknown.
This is only a short book and yet Gaiman manages to make us care about the people he writes about. I’m not quite sure how he does this. There are no lengthy explanations, no great wordy descriptions or info dumps and yet quite clearly we have a firm idea of the place and a distinct liking for the characters that populate it – whether they are make believe or not and whether they only play a fleeting part or a more substantial role. Tristan is decidedly naive but is quite refreshingly honest and likeable. Yvaine (the fallen star) is brusque and sharp tongued – although I think anybody would be a bit naffed off under similar circumstances.
Alongside this we have two other stories running – which are all about to coincide. We have the Lilim. Three ancient witch like creatures who are older than the hills. They seek the star for the purity of her heart which will renew their youth. We also have the remaining heirs of Stormhold – in a desperate race to find the fallen star first and retrieve the Topaz she carries which will give them the right to rule.
The action is fairly fast paced and brings to us creatures and myths along the way, the unicorn and the lion, flying pirates who seek lightning storms and talking trees to name but a few.
There’s plenty more to read about and is all very entertaining. It did put me in mind of The Book of Lost Things -not that the stories are the same but they’re both about young men who become embroiled in a fantastic journey and also they’re both coming of age stories.
I loved it and would happily read it again. Also, the book I was reading had a short story that Gaiman wrote before Stardust, a story that starts with a young girl and seven magpies. The book also included an interview which I really enjoyed reading – it just contained intriguing little snippets – like the copper beech tree in the story being created for Tori Amos. I only hope that one day Gaiman will return and finish his magpie story.
I’m including this in my RIP event. It’s fantasy and although I admit it isn’t really dark fantasy it is adult and there are some definite elements that could warrant it’s inclusion. I’m thinking of the particular parts of the story that focus on the witch – who isn’t exactly a sweet and cuddly character!