“Every lover is, in his heart, a madman, and, in his head, a minstrel.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust
So I FINALLY finished Gaiman’s “Stardust”! It took me quite a while to finish a seemingly short book, but I did it! Just to clarify, it was not because of a reading slump, but rather, the massive amount of responsibilities at college which I had to resolve. Yes, I still have a number of issues to take care of even now, but I would like to take a little break and write my thoughts about the fairy-tale for adults.
“Stardust” tells the fantastical adventure of Tristran Thorn. When Tristran is walking home with his crush, Victoria Forester, he makes a deal with her, saying that if he manages to retrieve the fallen star, she will have to do whatever he desires (since Victoria doesn’t like Tristran, at all). Therefore, Tristran passes through the village of Wall, into Faerie, a land where filled with witches, a unicorn, sky-ships, a shining girl, and brothers killing one another for the throne of a kingdom.
The very description of the book is interesting for me; I am fine when it comes to a love-struck protagonist, but when the main character actually decides to do something apparently impossible, even stupid, then I just love it. Characters that do not think about things that much are often entertaining to be read, and Tristran Thorn fulfills that standard quite nicely, although there are definitely a number of flaws within his character. Nevertheless, Tristran is not an annoying character nor an unlikable one; he solves problems in a unique fashion, and his overly honest personality makes me unable to hate him.
Tristran is by no means a great character, but that is complemented by the fact that the world of Faerie possesses an abundance of whimsical elements along with the dreadfully twisted ones; we can see tiny glowing people, a loyal unicorn fighting with a lion, and curses, LOTS of curses. Such a unique blend of environment might be a bit random, but it provides the narrative with fresh elements to be enjoyed by the readers. Aside from the lively world, the characters are portrayed to be quite attractive, especially the witch-queen, or the eldest of the lillim; this main antagonist is written so well that I despise, yet admire her at the same time.
Speaking of characters, there are quite an amount of characters in “Stardust”. There are a few protagonists, some antagonists, and some deuteragonists; the characters are related to one another, and their interactions are exciting to witness. Seeing a villain going against another villain is entertaining for me, and the book offers plenty of them. By abandoning the traditional formula of always having the good guys going against the bad guys, I believe this is a nice change of pace from most fairy tale formats.
One more nice thing, the string of events. Boy, I enjoyed the story so much because of how clever Gaiman has arranged the sequences of events. We see Tristran looking for a star, and a coincidence enables him to perform some feats or to achieve his goals, but then various villains are looking for the star, too. Those villains encounter one another, and their interactions mark other events that will determine the outcome of the characters’ actions. Okay, that might sound a bit confusing, but basically most of the deeds done by the characters, good or bad, really influence the flow of the story, making it containing very little insignificant, filler-like interactions.
Of course, there are flaws in the book despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed it. First, the world seems to be too random for me as I have mentioned before. There are witches, and ambitious sons of a kingdom’s ruler fighting one another, as well as a cursed, cat-like woman with an integral role to play in the story, as well as various magical elements. As the story progresses, things gradually make sense, but in the beginning to the middle, I couldn’t help but feel that a number of these elements felt ‘out of place’ and messy. One additional problem includes the rushed-pacing. At first, the story develops just fine, but during the final chapters of the book, Yvaine (you’ll know who she is while reading) and Tristran’s adventures are told in a few passages, and personally, I think that they could have been developed into finer, separate chapters. I do realize that it might affect the length of the book in a bad way since it might be redundant, but without them, the relationship between Yvaine and Tristran developed way too suddenly for me. At that point, I thought “wait, didn’t she hate him a few pages back?”.
I love the book, especially when I am really into fairy-tales. “Stardust” is one engaging read after some time, but the very little flaws that I have mentioned above are too crucial for me to ignore, and that made me drop the score a bit. Regardless, fairy-tale lovers who are fine with some gore and very little adult-moments, it is most likely that you will love this one!
Rating from me: 4/5