Stardust

Stardust is a book I picked up on recommendation from Hannah over at Realm of Reviews when she suggested it in a comment to an earlier post of mine.  I’ve read some of Neil Gaiman’s work before, and while the premises of his books are always very interesting, I’ve had some complaints about other aspects of his books.  My biggest issue with the other books of his that I’ve read is that the central viewpoint character of the story really played a very small role in the overall plot (American Gods is an example of this, as well as Good Omens – which was written by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett).  But we’ll get into more of that later, on with the review.

Book Stats

333 pages

Fantasy

Stand Alone

Characters

The main character of this book is Tristan Thorn, a young man who lives in the town of Wall.  The first chapter tells about the events leading up to Tristan’s birth and the unusual circumstances of his life.  While Tristan was a fairly interesting character, he was also pretty flat as a character.  In some books a flat character can work, but the central idea of this book was dealing with Tristan’s growing up and becoming an adult.  All of the side characters had their own interesting little quirks and there were some fun moments dealing with the interaction between all of the characters.  However, most of the characters were not particularly memorable to me.

Setting

The book begins in the town of Wall in England.  Obviously there is a big wall in Wall, and the wall separates the “real” world from the world of Faerie, where most of the story takes place.  Faerie is a fairly standard fantasy world – if you read the genre regularly there is nothing here that is going to surprise you – but there are still some interesting nuances that worked well in the story.  Relating some of the events in the world of Faerie to poems or children’s songs worked well in the novel and were fun to read about.

Plot

When Tristan is 17 he is doing everything he can to win the heart of Victoria, which in this case includes going into the realm of Faerie to recover a fallen star.  The quest takes him deep into the Faerie and gets him into some interesting situations involving several witches and various other magical creatures.  The plot was fairly straightforward, there was nothing in it that surprised me, and that was really one of the weaknesses of this book.  While I didn’t guess every aspect of the ending completely right, I pretty much had all of the major plot points worked out in my mind by about halfway through the book.  I don’t really know if it is because it was too clearly telegraphed or if I’ve just seen similar stories too many times to where this one held no surprises for me.

Enjoyment

The only thing about the end of the book that really surprised me was how far into the future Gaiman went in describing how the characters lived out their lives.  It was actually a welcome change from your standard fairy-tale, which is essentially what this book is.  As for the rest of the book, I was pleasantly surprised that the main viewpoint character was actually the central character to the overall story (which as I said earlier, I think Gaiman doesn’t always do).  However, while the viewpoint was better (IMO) in this book than in Gaiman’s other works, I had some problems with the prose and how the story was told as a whole.  The book is written in a semi-omniscient style, which is really unusual and was very jarring to me at times.  There were also parts of the story that just weren’t told in the book.  For example, there was a paragraph where it described how Tristan was almost forced into staying in a village as a Bard because he had several poems and stories memorized from school.  This could have been a really interesting chapter of the book where Gaiman showed Tristan growing up from this experience, but it doesn’t get a chapter, it gets a paragraph summarizing what happened.  And while that is one example, there were several other times when Gaiman did this throughout the course of the novel.  I personally thought he should have either written the entire episode, or just cut it out of the book because the way it was done was annoying.

Overall Grade

This book does some interesting things, but I wasn’t blown away.

5/10

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4 Comments

  1. hannahrose42

     /  December 9, 2011

    That’s fair enough. I agree wholeheartedly about the predictability thing. This was one of my first Gaiman novels, and, while I wasn’t blown away, I liked the story and easily predicted the end. Now, you should watch the movie and compare. It’s similar, but the ending… and oh, I just remembered some very odd things happen with Robert DeNiro… It’s worth one watch at least.

    Reply
    • If this was my first Gaiman book, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Because of what I’ve thought about his other books, I don’t think I was really able to give a truly unbiased opinion of the book. Although that’s a discussion for another day (which will probably end up being a post next week).

      Reply
      • hannahrose42

         /  December 10, 2011

        Gaiman’s books or being biased about them? I think it’s okay to base your opinion on books by what the author has done before. It may not be unbiased, but it feels more in depth, I suppose. I’m not sure how to explain it, so I hope you get my point.

  2. This was my first Gaiman book some time ago. I think you’re right that there were no genre breakthroughs or anything close, but I remember enjoying it. I recall a fair amount of tension throughout in most of the episodes – like Tristan’s difficulty in getting through and beyond the gate because the human guards were charged with preventing it. That added some juice to this version of Faerie. Humans erecting a wall to keep out magic – not an earthshaking theme, but with other such factors, I found Stardust a satisfying read.

    Reply

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