In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall Young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is cold and distant as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky one evening For the prize of Victoria's hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the star for his beloved It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town's ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imaginingFrom his groundbreaking graphic novel series The Sandman to his bestselling novel Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman's startling imagination has manifested itself in strange and sublimely inventive fictionStardust is his most enchanting tale yet


10 thoughts on “Stardust

  1. L.h. L.h. says:

    Dear Mr. Gaiman,

    Damn you. Damn you straight to hell. You've written beautiful faerie stories in your plainspoken postmodern prose, and left my own projected frontiers woefully trodden. It has nothing to do with your brilliance. Had I been born before you I would most likely be the one writing clever novels about fallen stars and sly gods. I would've, I swear!

    But instead, I was born forty years too late, and your Faerie, Neil, -do you mind if I call you Neil? Your Faerie, like all of your creations, is a perfectly plausible reality, praised by literary critics, the literate's dollar, and even the behemoth Movie Adaptation. Your prose is simple, if you'll pardon my saying so, not elevated, with exotic adjectives, but simple and modern, easily accessible, solid, quality prose. This reflects nothing upon you, of course -your authorship is the perfect marriage of your own writing talent and our modern culture. Shakespeare's work seems ridiculously complicated to us now, but he wrote for the masses, just like you. Our masses do not value rhetorics, metre, or internal rhyme, or I'm sure you'd write with such tools.

    No, Neil, you write with one very powerful tool -distilled imagination. Escapism, unreality, creativity, novelty, and all their side effects. When the surrounding world seems unbearable, the ever-growing fetus of imagination is hope. In slavery, in misery, in poverty, in isolation, a person can escape into the brighter day of dreams, or the unknown future, or the magic of Faerie.

    And in a world where the demons in the closet are thrust into a florescent laboratory, where telescopes and cameras record the crags and terrain of places where once there were dragons, where we identify which crannies of the human mind are responsible for fear, or love, or sorrow, and even plot out their corresponding hormonal compositions for manipulation and control... perhaps in such a world we must desperately escape into the unexplorable reaches of Faerie.

    The rules are simple there. Help anyone in need, and graciously accept their payment. Stick with unerringly polite manners, but never let down your guard. You need a sharp wit to go with a good heart. Never eat faerie food.

    Popular vote does not elect poor leaders in Faerie. Weapons are easily recognizable, not hidden in letters or water bottles. Death stands tall with his scythe and cowl instead of creeping behind health care bills and drug overdoses, and when he does come, death was either justified, or will be avenged. Villages in Faerie are rarely overrun with revolutionaries toting machine guns or skeletal toddlers with distended bellies. The old do not die alone there. Despite enchanted princes and disguised witches, Faerie makes more sense than our world, and if it doesn't, it's alright. It's Faerie.

    So we escape into your novels, Neil, and into the worlds of Harry Potter and Lyra Silvertongue, and we love you for it (or in my case, hate you). We are too jaded to suspend disbelief, yet we ache for magic. We won't creep into a darkened room for the show, but demand that you blossom crystal snowdrops here in Times Square, your right hand outstretched for our inspection while your left clutches a Starbucks cup. We cannot leave our world for Faerie anymore, so you bring it to us in pleasurable words, easily explainable, hidden just beyond an English countryside wall, or under our feet, or in corners we don't examine too closely.

    Please keep it up.

    Sincerely,
    L.H.


  2. Ariel Ariel says:

    Inevitably I was reading this against the movie, and I'm here to say that I think the movie and the book are both brilliant. So ha!

    I love the movie. It's absolutely wonderful. And I loved the book. .. But they are quite different. The novel definitely feels more adult. Not because it has adult themes just in the overall tone and language. The movie is definitely more family friendly. The movie is wittier and funnier and sillier and faster paced, and the book is slower and more whimsical and felt more grounded in reality (even though it's surrounded in magic.)


  3. Jayson Jayson says:

    (B+) 77% | Good
    Notes: The ending's flat and it doesn't have a climax, but it's still a great homage to the tradition of dark, folkloric fairy tales.


  4. Miranda Reads Miranda Reads says:

    The world-building, the characters, the story - all absolutely amazing!

    He wondered how it could have taken him so long to realize he cared for her, and he told her so, and she called him an idiot, and he declared that it was the finest thing that ever a man had been called.
    There's the wonder, there's the intrigue, there's the titch of magic interspersed with ethereal.

    Neil Gaiman has finally caught me on a story.

    We have Tristian, a product of his father's wandering gaze and a fairy lass, who in a fit of youthful passion, makes an improbable promise the hottest girl in the village.

    Victoria (apple of his eye) demands for Tristan crosses the boundary between our world and theirs in search of a fallen star.

    And thus begins his harrowing journey through the gap in the Wall and into the land of fairy to find an unwitting and unwilling star.

    This story read like an ancient tale - handed down from generation to generation.

    The only thing that threw me out of it was the weird sex. Gaiman always (always) strong-arms some sex into the books and while it did further the plot, I think that the events would've played out exactly the same without the naked bits thrown in to titillate the audience.

    That being said, the rest of the book was magnificent.
    Very rarely someone comes to Wall knowing what they are looking for, and these people they will sometimes allow through. There is a look in the eyes, and once seen it cannot be mistaken.
    This is the kind of book that makes you wonder...what if? And hope for the less likely answer.

    I would highly recommend the fully illustrated edition of this book (Stardust: Being a Romance within the Realms of Faerie) - there's something about having pictures on nearly every page that brings this book to the next level.

    Audiobook Comments
    I read and listened to this novel. The audiobook narrator (Neil Gaiman, himself) did an excellent job...though if push came to shove, I'd pick the illustrated edition.

    (For the record, the movie = better).

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    Happy Reading!


  5. Emily May Emily May says:

    The more Gaiman I read, the more I understand why people are so caught up in the magic he wields. Because that is basically what he does. He's not an author, he's a magician, painting magic pictures of rich, exciting worlds that come to life so quickly. Worlds that somehow seem complexly developed after just two chapters of Gaiman's writing. Gaiman is simply a master storyteller. He creates moods that permeate entire novels and, whether you happen to be reading his adult or young adult works, he makes you feel like a child wandering through a wardrobe into a world of possibility, or perhaps slipping through the invisible barrier of platform 9 3/4 and discovering the world is more than you could ever have imagined. What Gaiman does with his magic, is build timeless fairytales that speak to people of all ages.

    Stardust is just one example of Gaiman's creativity. It is nothing like the hauntingly nostalgic The Ocean at the End of the Lane or the eerily fantastical subterranean London of Neverwhere or the ghostly coming of age story in The Graveyard Book, but it has the stamp of Gaiman all over it. His style is present from the very first chapter when a young man falls madly in lust with a Faerie girl and his passion results in the birth of Tristran Thorn. The tale only gets wilder, more exciting and more adventurous from there. A grown Tristran attempts to win the hand of his love by crossing the wall into the land of Faerie to retrieve a fallen star. But, as these things go, it doesn't turn out to be a simple task and, if Tristran even makes it back alive, he is certain to be a very different man to the one who left.

    However, as myself and others have done, it is very easy to feel the need to compare Gaiman's books to popular children's classics (I started the first paragraph by doing so) but Stardust is not a children's book. At a stretch, it could be called a young adult book but I'm tempted to play on the safe side and call it adult. There's a sex scene in chapter one that is quite graphic. Not fifty shades of faerie, but still quite graphic. Plus there's some violence and gore that may put you off if you are looking for a light, fluffy fantasy read. In fact, I've read a bunch of GR reviews where the reader hated it because they'd read the blurb comparing it to The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story and seemed struck down in horror by the sex and violence. So, I'm warning you.

    The only thing more I can say about Gaiman is that I'm becoming a crazy fangirl and he needs to write more things and faster because soon I will have caught up with everything he's written. If you haven't yet, take a chance on him.


  6. Jen Jen says:

    A friend gave me this book and I decided to read it before going to see the movie, since I'd heard so many rave reviews of the film. If the movie hadn't been my carrot, though, I never would have made it through the first chapter, let alone the entire story. Let me say that I adore the fantasy genre (check my book list), so this is not outside my interest. However, in attempting to write a fairy tale for adults Gaimon completely missed the mark. Apparently his idea of what makes a story for adults is generous sprinklings of gore, violence, and sex. Considering that the rest of the story is written with child-like simplicity these sections are jarring, to say the least. When I stumbled across the first somewhat graphic sex scene within a few dozen pages, I literally stopped to double check what book I was reading. Call me a prude, but I don't think words like nipple and thrust really flow well in a fairy tale. Also, I defy any fantasy lover to not flinch in horror at Gaimon's brutal and gore-spattered murder and subsequent dismemberment of the heroine's unicorn. Pooling bodily fluids? No, thank you.

    Still, it's not so much the sex & violence that disturbed me (although if I liked that kind of thing I wouldn't be reading fantasy); it was that they were included in a tale lauded for its childlike adventure and whimsy. Even the description here on goodreads compares it to Princess Bride & the Neverending Story - an insult beyond comprehension to works which demonstrate that, with skill, an author can in fact write a fairy tale for adults without employing R rated tactics.

    Lest you think I am allowing several instances of violence and sex to ruin my opinion of the entire work, let me address the actual plot line and writing. Gaimon can write, obviously, but the plot is riddled with fantasy travel cliches (oh, he slept in a hayloft? How original!) and tiresome caricatures. The hero is an unsympathetic clod, the star is referred to almost exclusively as the star, rendering her more an inanimate object than a living being, and the rare nuggets of interest, such as the lightning pirates and the mysterious kingdom brotherhood are glossed over in a few paragraphs. And for a book that does not flinch from sex, where is the romance between the star & hero? We endure their pedantic bickering the entire book, only to be rewarded with a passionless declaration of love betwixt them by the end.

    The ending is predictable yet less than satisfying, since the evil witch queen escapes justice and ultimately the star faces a lonely immortality bereft of her love. Not exactly the stuff happy endings are made of.

    UPDATE: I finally saw the movie, and let me say how grateful I am that it is NOTHING like the book! Other than borrowing the majority of the plot & character names, the movie is night & day different, employing a vast amount of humor & charm where the book was violent and grim. I only wish my perspective had not been tainted by the book!


  7. Kirstine Kirstine says:

    This is the one case, the ONLY case (so far. Edit: not anymore, Bridget Jones gets the honor too), where I prefer the movie to the book. I know it's a sacrilege and you can all burn me at the stake, but it is nonetheless the truth. It's also one of the few times I watched the movie before reading the book, simply because I had no idea the book existed. And I loved the movie. I mean, really, really loved it.

    So of course when I discovered it was based on a book, I rushed to get it. Now, please don't get me wrong, it's a good book. It's a very very good book, and I love how Neil Gaiman tried (and succeeding at) creating a dark fairytale. Because it is very much a fairytale, except it's probably not so much for kids, as it is for adults. It shows us that fairytales aren't all glitter and roses, and good vs. evil, with happy endings for all the good guys. It's a more realistic fairytale.
    That seems like such a contradiction, and few other people than Neil Gaiman could make it work (so thank god he's the one who wrote it).

    The problem is that having watched the movie I wanted a fairytale. All the things I loved the best about the movie, weren't in the book (and it's usually the other way around, I was surprised too). I mean, no Captain Shakespeare? No happy stars-in-the-sky ending? The movie was such a feel-good one and the book? Not so much.

    Had I done it in the proper order (book then movie) I'm absolutely certain I would have felt differently about it, but that's not how it is. Both book and movie are amazing in their own right, and perhaps I shouldn't even compare them, but ah, too late.

    Still, this is a great book and I really enjoyed it. So don't rid yourself of the chance to get to know some fantastic characters and go on a proper fairytale adventure with no risk of sugar exposure.


  8. Kai Kai says:

    “You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.”

    My first Neil Gaiman book was a disappointment. I didn't like this very much. It wasn't a bad book exactly, but it was also far from being a good one. The characters didn't have much depth, the plot was unrealistic and completely predictable. For me, this is one highly overrated novel and I don't get what the fuss is all about. I still haven't watched the movie but I feel like this could be one of those rare cases when the screen adaption is better than the original.
    The only other Gaiman book that I've read until today was Coraline, the graphic novel. I loved the haunting and dark atmosphere of it all. But apart from that, I'm not motivated to pick up another one of his books anytime soon.

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  9. Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ says:

    3.5 stars. Neil Gaiman and I have a love-hate relationship, and I hope that bothers him as much as it bothers me. He's a gifted writer and I keep thinking that I ought to love everything he writes, but so far his books have struck me either as:

    • so bizarre and off-putting that I couldn't get into it <---American Gods,
    • hauntingly beautiful but kind of confusing <---The Ocean at the End of the Lane, or
    • having a marvelous setting but being a little on the predictable side <---Neverwhere.

    Stardust falls into the third category. In many ways it's a lovely, whimsical, humorous fairy tale, and I love fairy tale-inspired books, so I was predisposed to like this book, but in the end I had some issues with it.

    An English town with the mundane name of Wall lies on the boundaries of Faerie. It takes its name from the high rock wall that separates Victorian England and our world from Faerie. But there is a gap in the wall, and though men guard the gap against anyone entering or leaving Faerie from our world, every nine years there is a May Day fair when the guard is set aside . . . and sometimes the rules are broken.

    One May Day young Dunstan Thorn wanders into Faerie and is entranced by a slave girl with violet eyes and cat ears. Nine months later, a baby is unceremoniously thrust through the gap into Wall, with the name Tristran Thorn pinned to his blanket. Nearly eighteen years after that, Tristran (who has no idea of his origin) falls in love with a lovely but standoffish young girl named Victoria. Tristran begs her to kiss him, or marry him, or something. She demurs, and he rashly promises to bring her the treasures of the earth--including the star that they just saw fall to the earth. Victoria lightly promises him anything he desires if he will bring her the fallen star. So off Tristran goes to Faerie, to catch the fallen star. It turns out that in Faerie stars are beautiful and somewhat sparkly young women. Unfortunately for both Tristran and the star, there are several other people who want the star as well, for reasons more dark than Tristran's.

    description

    Although this book is written in a rather simplistic style, reminiscent of old fairy tales, this one is definitely for adults, not kids. There's a somewhat detailed sexual scene, quite a bit of gore and death, and the star drops an F-bomb when she drops to earth. If you're going to give me adult content, then give me real adult content: depth, details, complex world building, unexpected turns in the story. This one didn't quite hit the mark. There were several scenes and subplots that I thought begged for a more detailed description and some background: (view spoiler)[the little man who helps Tristran on his way, the flying ship, the man in the black silk top hat at the end (did I miss his significance somehow?) (hide spoiler)]


  10. Sean Barrs Sean Barrs says:

    I hate Tristan Thorn, though I do suppose that everybody has been in his shoes at one point in their life. Everybody was young once and everybody has been naively in love with someone they barely know. I can’t blame Tristan for his natural puppyish passions, he is only seventeen after all, but I can hate him for it nonetheless; he is completely unbearable at the beginning as his love-sick foolishness knows no bounds. Indeed, when Victoria Forester, the woman he thinks he in love with, agrees to marry him if he fetches a fallen star, yes a fallen star, he childishly tries to retrieve it.

    He thought of Victoria’s lips, and her grey eyes, and the sound of her laughter. And to ignorant to be scared, too young to be awed, Tristan Thorn passed beyond the fields we know.

    description

    In doing so he does grows as a person and almost redeems himself as he sees the errors of his ways. However, he is still an oaf and a self-obsessed idiot for most of the novel, which makes him quite unbearable as a person. Indeed, when he finally encounters the star he sees nothing but his ticket to getting between Victoria’s legs; instead of the wonder that is before him because the star is a magical being that belongs in another world. She attracts a whole host of problems, with Tristan’s lust for Victoria being the least of them.

    Also on route to claim the star for their own is a trio of princes, which ever one claims her earns the Kingship. Septimus, the youngest of the three, is power mad; he will stop at nothing to be the victor even if it means walking over the corpses of his fellow prince. However, a dark and more sinister threat approaches: the evil witch queen. If her and her sisters eat the heart of the star then their youth will be restored, and in doing so most of their already deadly powers too.

    But, Tristan is too unbearable

    I do like Gainman’s writing, and I do like the idea behind this novel; however, I found Tristan to be an awful protagonist. He is not written badly nor is he a bad person, but I just found him annoying enough to affect my enjoyment of the novel. When you hate the protagonist so much it makes the story not as fun to read, and makes you want to throw it at the wall; it becomes frustrating rather than pleasant. I mean he is so much of a love sick puppy that it made me sick. I just wanted to slap him. He really is a repulsive guy:

    “We shall visit my parents. I have missed them- although Tristan had barely given his parents a second thought on his journeying’s- then we shall pay a visit to Victoria Forester.”

    He just doesn’t see what’s in front of his face till the very end, and then it’s only when his first choice rejects him. Tristan doesn’t deserve the ending he gets in this book; he deserves a reality check. If Tristan was less of an idiot he would have annoyed me less and then I would have easily given this a four start rating, but alas he is a moron.