Friday, June 13, 2008

Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman

One of the things about borrowing books from the library is that you never know which edition of a book you are going to get. I must confessed that when I requested Stardust, I definitely wasn't expecting to get a picture book sized book, and I had to go back to the online bookstores to check whether that was normal or not, but it seems that I just managed to get an illustrated version (published by DC Comics) as opposed to the straight written version. Of course, then it took me ages to find a picture of the actual cover that I had. I hate it when I can't post exactly the same cover.

Neil Gaiman is one of those authors who I have seen raved about at various places are blogland, and I have been tempted to read him for a long time, particularly as I started reading more fantasy. Having said that, this is the first time I have ever read Gaiman, but it won't be the last time.

The story opens in the very early days of Queen Victoria's reign, when we meet a young man by the name of Dunstan Thorn, who lived in the village of Wall. Near the village of Wall, there is a wall that is guarded to prevent people from crossing over into the neighbouring faerie lands.
Once every nine years, there is a market held at Wall, where all types of folk come to trade goods and meet. When Dunstan goes to the market he meets a beautiful young woman, and has a tryst with her, despite the fact that he is promised to another woman. Dunstan goes on to marry his betrothed and settle down, but then months later a baby is left on the doorstep with a name tag saying Tristan Thorn.

Whilst there is a bit of time taken to set up the above storyline, the book really is about Tristan and his adventure. When he is a teenager, he is in love with Miss Victoria Forester, as are most of the other young men in town. When out walking one evening with Miss Forester, they see a falling star, and Tristan promises "For a kiss, and the pledge of your hand...I would bring you that fallen star", and so begins Tristan's journey, as he crosses into the faerie lands in search of the fallen star.

When he finds the star, who unfortunately has broken her leg in the fall, he binds himself to her with an unbreakable silver chain, thus earning her scorn, but after various incidents involving others who are also searching for the star for their own nefarious purposes, they come to respect and like each other and they find themselves bound together, not by a physical chain, but by a much stronger invisible bond. Along the way they meet unicorns, witches, are changed into other creatures and spend time on a flying ship.

Eventually, we find out about Tristan's true identity and his destiny, that the star, whose name is Yvaine, shares with him, but not before he comes face to face with Victoria once again.

Whilst I really enjoyed the fairy tale like story, I have to admit that it took me ages to read this book. Part of the reason was because of the size of the book. It really wasn't a convenient size to hold whilst lying in bed, which is where I was reading this book most of the time. The other distraction was the imagery in the book which was really detailed and really added an extra dimension to the story.

The story itself was lovely, and I am definitely going to see whether I can track down a DVD of the movie so that I can see how it translated to the big screen. I must confess that when I first saw the trailer of the movie, and they were talking about one of the main characters being a fallen star I was a bit puzzled as to what that all meant, but now having read the book, I can definitely see how it was done in the book, and I am looking forward to seeing the movie's portrayal.

If you have read the story in a normal novel format, or perhaps have seen the movie (or both), then I don't think you would be disappointed if you tracked down this version of the book that includes the artwork by Charles Vess and read the book again.

This is one of the books that I nominated to read as part of Carl's Once Upon a Time II Challenge. I only have one more book left to read for this challenge. I also have several reviews to write before the challenge finishes next week, so I really should just hurry up and get on with it!

Have you reviewed this book? If yes, please leave a comment with a link to your review and I will link to your blog.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Bookworms and Tea Lovers
Trish's Reading Nook
Passion for the Page
Sophisticated Dorkiness


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one :) And I love the illustrated version. You're right, the size is not the best to carry around, but I just never tire of looking at Charles Vess's artwork.

  2. I've been meaning to re read Stardust for some time. I own the book you read, which is a graphic novel. Gaiman later did a prose only version of the story, which I haven't read, because Vess's art is inseparable in my mind. The film was very enjoyable; I recommend it.

    I find the Stardust GN longer to read because it's very dense, not just in Vess's detailed art, but in prose. It's not like more conventional comic books, with panels and limited text.

    If you liked this, I recommend seeking out Gaiman's Sandman comic book series, which is available in GN collections. It starts out uneven, but goes on to great heights, one of which is a Shakespearean issue, #19, illustrated by Vess and that won them both the World Fantasy Award.

  3. This is another author whom I thoroughly enjoy; "American Gods" remains one of my 5 all-time favorite contemporary fiction novels ever.

  4. You should definitely pick up Gaiman's Neverwhere - it's wonderful.

  5. This is one of my favorite Gaiman books! It's just such a wonderful story. I read it last year and LOVED it!! Sorry, you didn't enjoy the picture book, but I'm glad you liked the story.

    I even liked the movie and it is vastly different than the book!

  6. Stephanie, I did like the picture book aspect of the novel. When I said that I was distracted by the pictures I just meant that it took me longer to read than a normal book because I kept on getting lost in the artwork.

    Carrie, I am sure that I will get to Neverwhere eventually. Next up is American Gods.

    Girl Detective, is the prose only version different than the prose in the GN?

  7. This was my first Gaiman book as well. I read an unillustrated version and promptly went out and bought the Vess version. I've also read Neverwhere (again, great imagery) and Good Omens (co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, it's one of my favorites)

  8. I've been meaning to read Stardust forever. Thank you for the great review and the beautiful illustrations!

  9. I read Stardust earlier this year and loved it. I'll have to look for this illustrated edition at some point. It sounds great :)

  10. I am absolutely in love with everything Gaiman. I subscribe to his blog, have read almost all of his novels and generally stalk the poor man. It is a very RARE case when I plug a movie, but the theatrical rendition of this movie is fantastic! Robert De Niro steals the show and the young man playing the lead makes me swoon (and he's my sons age!).
    I posted a review of it (my only movie review) HERE.

  11. This shouldn't be your last Gaiman :)

    This book is one of my favorites of his (obviously I'm a big fan). I probably reread this a lot and enjoy Tristran's trip to that other side of The Wall! And Charles Vess' illustrations definitely rock!

    You should also see the movie. It's different but it's a lovely take on the story as well. The book, the illustrated novel and the movie all can stand apart from each other and yet all three are endearing just the same. Gee, I'm rambling :)

  12. I read the text only version of Stardust, and really enjoyed it.
    Fragile Things, a short story collection, is very good too; especially October in the Chair _ you seldom come across a story that raises your hackles and makes you want to cry, all at the same time.

  13. I love Neil Gaiman and Stardust was the second book of his I read. My first was Neverwhere and it's still my favorite. I loved Stardust too and need to track down that illustrated version. Although I'm glad I first read the regular text version. I did like the movie version as well...they did a great adaptation.

  14. I have to admit I don't read fantasy but it sounds like I should try Gaiman after reading your review:)

  15. Ooh an illustrated version - that sounds interesting - mine was just plain text. I found this book hard to get into at first as his language is very descriptive - but once I got used to it I sped through the story and loved the twists and turns and how he tied everything together at the end. I think I'm going to watch the movie too to see how it looks on the big screen.

  16. I love the idea of him catching a falling star. And if the illustrations are like the one you posted, I may get this just to look at that artwork! Gorgeous!

  17. Oh, wow -- an illustrated version would have been cool. I'll have to look for that.

  18. I liked the illustrated version of the book when I read it -- I'm glad mine was normal book sized though :)

    I linked to your review, and you can find mine here.

    Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.