Book Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A few years ago I went to see the Matthew Vaughn movie Stardust and was thoroughly charmed by it. It was a sweet, funny and engaging fantasy story and when I found out it was based on a Neil Gaiman book it was mentally added to my “to read list”, however, this list is now so long that it wasn’t until now that I actually got around to reading it.

And boy am I glad I did. While the general plot is the same as the movie, the book is wildly different in lots of aspects and an improvement.

stardust

The plot follows Tristran Thorn, a young man who lives in Wall, a small English town which is next to a mysterious wall. The wall has a gap in, and guards are posted from the town to stop anyone entering the land beyond, known as Faerie. Tristran makes a stupid promise to the girl he is besotted with and heads into Faerie in order to retrieve a fallen star.

However, when he finds the star it turns out to be a young woman, who isn’t best pleased to be taken prisoner to be gifted to someone. Tristran nonetheless sticks with his plan, although they meet many obstacles and fantastic beasts.

The star has been struck by a necklace, which is pursued by the surviving sons of the Lord of Stormhold, and whoever gets the necklace will become ruler, after he’s bumped off his siblings. Also in pursuit is an aged witch, who plans to cut out the star’s heart to grant her and her sisters youth once more.

 

What follows is a hugely entertaining fantasy adventure which benefits from Gaiman’s bags of wit and invention. The book is bursting at the seams with clever little touches and nice ideas, and Gaiman’s narration is sarcastic, knowing and humorous, calling to mind Terry Pratchett, only slightly less farcical. It’s the way that the writer offers asides and doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects that gives it the edge over the movie, which was funny, but never really sunk it’s teeth into the more adult parts of the story.

The plot does rely on a fair few convenient coincidences, but due to the fairytale style it doesn’t really matter and the book zips along at a decent pace to cover any minor flaws. It utterly charmed me and had me smiling and chuckling to myself.

It’s not my favourite Neil Gaiman book, but it’s a very well written story which plays with fairtytale traditions and mixes the fantastical with a more grounded, knowing aside to the reader. All in all it’s an utter gem and lots of fun.

Verdict: A charming and inventive fantasy story, written with verve, wit and intelligence by Gaiman, who has more ideas on show here than some writers manage in an entire career. Utterly absorbing and will bring a smile to your face. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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