For me Stardust is another case of seeing the movie before reading the book. That’s a no shame confession, because the movie was a wonderful, slightly whimsical, adventure. I never understood why it didn’t get much recognition, because it featured Robert De Niro as a crossdressing pirate captain. Read: Robert De Niro.in.a.tutu! The movie was magic to me, but trust me… so is the book. Even if it’s slightly different, which means there weren’t any crossdressing pirates (boo!).
What I did get was a wonderful novella that tells the story of a very rich fantasy world beyond the gap in a wall of a town called Wall. It’s my second encounter with Neil Gaiman, whom I think will soon be added to my list of Great Ones. Right before I started this book I read a comic adaption of The Sandman: Dreamhunter, which seemed an authentic Japanese folktale. While Stardust doesn’t feel like an autenthic fairy tale, I can already tell that this is an authentic Gaiman. A little dark but a lot of magic and wonder.
There is one asset of fairytales that Gaiman adapted. It’s the way you know how the story will end without it being annoying. I’m sure that even if I had not seen the movie, I would have guessed the ending of this book. I’m also sure that I wouldn’t have cared. It’s the journey that counts and what a journey it was.
Every nine years there is a market on the other side of the wall. This market is held in a land called Faerie, which is just as selfexplanitory as the name of the village Wall. It’s a land of magic, faeries and wonders. It is here where Dunstan Thorn meets an enchanting faerie with whom he’ll spend the night. Nine months later a boy is send through the gap in the wall: Thristran Thorn.
Thristran grows up to be a clumsy shop-boy. His flattened ear is the only thing about him that isn’t ordinary. And just like every ordinary boy he’s in love. Thristran is so in love that he promises to catch a fallen star that has landed on the other side of the wall. And so he sets out on a quest in Faerie. What he finds is not a solid rock but a fair maiden and a feisty one at that!
Within a few pages I was invested in the story. Gaiman doesn’t need a lot of words to give life to his worlds. Stardust feels like one of many stories within Faerie. The world is so carefully crafted that you know things are happening outside of this book. That may sound silly, because of course you can’t capture everything that happens in an entire world in a book! But just ask yourself how many times you noticed that while reading. I often don’t get thoughts like this during my reading process. Then again this was only 193 pages. If I’m honest I think that wasn’t enough. For one because I really wanted to see more of Faerie. I’ve only seen a glimpse of talking forests, creatures I never read about and wicked witches. The movie adaption even featured added scenes like the crossdressing pirate. Can you tell I’m dissapointed that this wasn’t in the book? 😉
There’s another reason why this book should have been longer. Some scenes actually felt really rushed. There was a major plotpoint near the end where the turning point was only mentioned in one sentence. I had to reread the part because I missed it! Some of the character’s reactions to certain things weren’t there or felt a little flat. If you hadn’t guessed it, this is going to be a romantic story. Even though I couldn’t see the romance building up as it did in the film. But perhaps that is closer to reality than we’d like to admit. Sometimes we don’t realize we’re in love when we’ve fallen for a person long ago. The very few times that I was in love/had a crush I could never pinpoint the exact moment where it happened.
For the record I don’t even really mind the rushed scenes. I really meant it when I said Neil Gaiman will be one of The Great Ones in my personal book. His story enchanted me in the way that any good writer should hope to do.
Stardust is a fairytale like other fairytales in the sense that it sweeps you off your feet. You get taken on a story which is guided by a narrator. There are spells, witches, kings, princesses and all that jazz. But not all magical creatures get a happy ending in this one. While this is a fairytale, it’s a more realistic one that holds on to the charm of older tales.