I was first introduced to Neil Gaiman through his comic book series The Sandman. Though I did not particularly enjoy the first volume of the series itself, there was something quite unique about the writing style and the way in which Gaiman developed the plot and the characters. He is also the author of the novella Coraline (which I have not actually read yet, but I have watched the movie adaptation and loved every moment of it) and The Sleeper and the Spindle, which is a book based upon the fairytale of The Sleeping Beauty.
So how is all this relevant? Well, the book Stardust incorporates the similar fairytale aesthetics that these previous books also share. The way in which it is written is almost like the narration of a classical fairytale and yet there are moments of crude language and mature themes such as murder, adultery, intercourse etc. It reminds me almost of the style of Grimm’s Fairytales where the story itself may seem like a child’s bedtime story and yet the discourse makes it dark and unnerving. When researching more into it, I found on Wikipedia that Stardust was intentionally written as a traditional, pre-Tolkien, English fantasy text, something that becomes quite evident to the reader early on.
To give a brief summary: The story follows a boy called Tristian Thorn who falls in love with a woman in his village. One night, while he talks with her, they see a star fall from the sky and Tristian vows to her that he will manage to obtain this fallen star, in order to then earn her hand. This leads him to travel over the town’s ancient wall and into a different world referred to as Faerie. There he gets to discover much about himself and about his true heritage.
Something quite interesting about the book, are the parallel journeys that go on at the same time and the amusing ways in which they intertwine at different points throughout the story. The context behind them is never given and the audience has to figure out their purpose in relation to the plot by themselves. Speaking of which, Gaiman never brings something into the story that doesn’t have some sort of greater purpose. Even little details that might seem insignificant at first, can have a great impact as to how the story gets to develop later on. This, to me, signals an intuitive and a well thought out piece of writing that never seizes to entertain me.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it ‘till about halfway through the book where I suddenly felt myself getting lost in the different events that were going on. I was slowly beginning to lose interest in the story when suddenly, everything fell into place and was carried out smoothly ‘till the end. The vocabulary and style of writing throughout felt almost lyrical in the way in which Gaiman transmitted the setting and the characters. Though there is a world with which I could associate a schematic relation to (as it is based in England), Faerie is such a beautiful and unique creation that managed to feel so real that I was convinced that it could exist somewhere on Earth. Gaiman doesn’t attempt to build a world that is unrealistically perfect or imperfect, so that the readers would have a sense of being placed in a fantasy setting, distant from our own. Instead he draws on familiar aspects of the world that we know and twists them into something magical and unique that we can become fully immersed in.
Language/Style: 8 points
Characters: 8 points
Plot: 7 points
Story: 8 points
Giving this book a total of 31 points out of 40.
I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys fantasy fiction, particularly Grimm’s Fairytales and Lord of the Rings. It’s not an extremely long book and yet it makes you feel as if you’ve been on a vast and exciting adventure that you’ve just returned home from and you want to tell everyone around you about it.
Quote: Every lover is, in his heart, a madman, and, in his head, a minstrel.