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Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy
Paperback: 333 Pages
Publication: February 1. 1999
by Harper Collins


In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for six hundred years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he'll retrieve that star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.


Stardust, for me, was a variation on the standard quest plot, with a touch of the coming-of-age story and some romance added for good measure. Teenage protagonist Tristran Thorn makes the rash promise of bringing a fallen star to his crush, a young lady named Victoria, and he goes out to fulfill that promise. He journeys from their hometown of Wall to the land of Faerie, both of which are separated literally by a stone wall.

Something I really loved about reading this book was Gaiman’s prose. The dialogues flow naturally between characters, and his descriptions are rich, not overly lush, and easy to follow. This comes into play when describing the settings, which are a lot of fun to look at and compare. Wall comes across as sort of humdrum and bland, qualities that made me think of the town in the movie Pleasantville. The most action this town seems to get is when the market on the opposite side of the wall sets up every nine years, as it’s noted that travelers from far away come to Wall just for it. Faerie is far more colorful and interesting because of its various realms and inhabitants. Even from the little bit of it we see at the beginning of the novel makes it more exciting, especially when compared to Wall.

Tristran reminded me of some of the poets I read in college who tried to romance "ice queens," as my poetry professor would call them. Gaiman portrays him as a well-meaning sweet kid, and I found it really easy to like him. It makes you wonder what he sees in Victoria besides her beauty, since she's cold towards him when they are together at the beginning of the novel. Yvaine, the star, is sassy and quick-witted, a fun character overall just as likable as Tristran. Silly as it may sound, their relationship reminded me of that of Shrek and Fiona: it starts out rocky, but they gradually come to care for each other.

Besides following Tristran and Yvaine, we also get to see his father at the beginning of the novel, and later an aging witch-queen and the lords of a region of Faerie called Stormhold. These last two subplots serve to complicate Tristran's quest and make it more dangerous, difficult, and compelling. There are a couple of twists at the end, one of which really threw me for a loop. (I literally had to put the book down and take a few seconds to absorb what I had just read.)

Something I was a bit disappointed about was the revelation of Tristran’s parentage. We know about it from the beginning, but we don’t get to see his reaction to the big reveal. There are hints dropped that others know about his parents, but Tristran remains in the dark until nearly the end of the book. We’re not with him when he finally finds out, and we don’t see him again until after the reveal, presumably after he’s had time to absorb the information. I felt that there would’ve been some big payoff to his discovery, such as answering a few questions that come up during his time in Faerie, and it didn’t happen. But really, that was the only thing that I really disliked about the story overall.

Like I said before, Tristran is a really likable character, and his and Yvaine’s relationship is enjoyable to watch as it develops over the course of the novel. The language throughout is beautiful and flows well. The plot twists are done in such a way that they tie up loose ends nicely, leaving you satisfied at the end. I definitely recommend that you check this book out.

Additional Information
  • N/A
Similar Books
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Violence
  • Some sex 

4 comments on "Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman"
  1. This book sounds so good, I can't believe I haven't read it yet. It has been on my shelves for a very long time alreay...

    1. Don't feel too bad about not having read it yet. I had the book on my shelf for a few months before I even picked it up. Doesn't take away from how good it is.

  2. I saw the movie based on this book and it's one of my favorites :)
    I'm glad you liked the book I probably should read it.
    Great review

    1. Thanks! I haven't seen the movie, but I might get around to watching it sometime! The book was really great.


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