Book Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Don’t like?  Read the book first!

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I adore Neil Gaiman.  I think the man is an extremely talented writer who has a lovely way with words and getting them to fit just right.  He’s fantastic at imagery and emotion and….yeah I kinda love him.

So it should be no surprise this is going to be a very positive review of his fairytale Stardust.

Stardust is concerned with a boy named Dunstan Thorn and how one night with a fairy girl changes his world.  More precisely, the story concerns the adventure of the outcome of that affair, a young boy named Tristan who is half human and half fairy.  He decides to venture past the wall the village gets its name from to retrieve a fallen star for the love of his life.  He discovers the magical world of fairy and himself falls in love with the fallen star.

It’s a beautiful book, first of all.  Gaiman has quite the way with words, at once both simple and to the point and beautifully poetic and flowery.  He creates a beautifully magical world, filled with life and color reminiscent of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  The action is fast paced, not drawn out, and it is quite an adventure from beginning to end.  Along the way the love story is developed without being either too slow or much too quick.  There are loose threads that are wonderfully connected at the end of the story and while it is a fantastical tale, there is an element of realism and the ending is almost beautifully tragic.

Another thing I love about this book is that, while the events mostly take place in the 1800’s, the book is timeless in the sense that you feel this other world would never be affected by modern conveniences anyway.  It’s a lot like Middle Earth in the senses that, while many things are medieval, it exists outside of what we think of as medieval anyway.  A timeless bubble of a world where magic exists instead of technology.

The characters are all fantastically developed.  Tristan Thorn is a wonderfully hopeful and naïve boy and by the end of it, he has grown up without sacrificing hope and innocence and gaining an element of bravery and maturity.  Yvaine is a fantastic character as well.  She is stubborn but not without reason and very confused in a world she doesn’t know.  But she has luck on her side and learns a lot and finally her adjustment and subsequent love evolve her into a fearless, adventurous and absolutely unforgettable character despite her tinge of tragedy.

The bad guys are bad but only for their purposes.  You don’t get the sense that they’re evil in the traditional sense.  The Lilim sisters want to kill the star, but only because stars give you your youth back and they need her heart for that.  Once she gives her heart away (by loving someone else) she is forgotten about by the sisters.  The murderous Stormhold brothers only kill each other because that seems to be the tradition of the clan.  That’s how the next reigning lord is decided and they simply carry on the tradition.

Even side characters are developed to a point where they’re not easily forgotten.  We know that Victoria is beautiful but also sweet and kind despite being a little selfish.  Dustan still holds that magical hope and love in his now aged body, and Lady Una is a spunky girl not easily defeated by her life circumstances.

As for atmosphere and world development, I already talked about it a little up there when I talked about plot.  Gaiman does a great job making the book feel magical and adventurous despite its themes and while the world is not developed to the extent that Tolkien’s is, it is developed fully enough that you can envision everything you need to about a scene and still have a sense of how the world is moving outside of the story.

Final Thougths:  It’s a fantastic book.  It’s beautifully written, it’s got a great classic story (who doesn’t love a fairytale?) and it’s got memorable characters.  Total 5/5 stars.

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