ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Neil Gaiman is an award-winning English author particularly renowned for his characteristic gothic-fantasy literary inclinations. Some of his acclaimed works include American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere. Gaiman first entered the limelight with his impressive comic book series The Sandman published by DC comics. The author is regarded as one of the literary pioneers that helped accentuate the graphic-novel format. Gaiman is reputed for his uncanny ability to construct whole new worlds, particularly in the horror, fantasy, fairy-tale, folklore and science-fiction genres. Stardust is one of his fantasy novels about the adventure of a young man out on a quest in the land of Faerie to secure a star for the hand of his beloved.
You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.
Tristan Thorn is a 17-year-old lad yearning for the affections of the village beauty. In his quest to win her hand in marriage, he promises to bring her back a fallen star from the mystical land of Faerie that borders their own town called “Wall” (named after the wall that divides the realm of humans from that of the fairies). As he ventures into this unknown land of magic and mystery, he finds out that the star is, in fact, a damsel named Yvaine, for stars are nothing but beautiful young women in that part of the world. Nevertheless, determined to keep his promise, Tristan journeys back with Yvaine as his prisoner and, along the way, ends up falling for the witty and sarcastic yet endearing star. The story is dotted poignantly with many more characters and their own journeys, which are all exquisitely connected with a silky string of literary skill to the protagonists.
Gaiman has amply dispersed his trademark whimsy across the entire narrative. Details of the plot line, such as a mysterious furry little man that assists Tristan in his journey or the Faerie Fair, where one finds magical materials such as bottled dreams and storm-filled eggshells being sold, are testaments to this very fact. The narrative is voiced through the theme of the old-world fairy tale timbre that, at first glance, seems to be written for children. However, as the story progresses, it is clear that the book is meant for adults with some instances of gore and fantasies of the flesh. The plot is sprinkled with a colorful myriad of three-dimensional characters that have their own agendas in line with that of the novel’s two protagonists. The entire adventure is spread out over a vast story-line and incorporates many whimsical tertiary characters that leave the reader reeling with wonder.
As Gaiman is known to do, he has incorporated various allusions to Victorian fairy tales and culture into the plot, with one instance being the vicious fight between a lion and a unicorn over a golden crown, which has been unmistakably derived from the old nursery rhyme The Lion and the Unicorn. Another example can be the use of the age-old rhyme How Many Miles to Babylon? to explain the magical candle used by Tristan to traverse long distances. Such references are extremely effective in creating an effect of nostalgia and establishing a rapport between the reader and the writer to further enhance the quality of the story.
There was a shyness to the sky and a newness to the world that he had seen or felt or realized before.
Gaiman’s typical proclivity for adding a tinge of gloom and darkness to the story makes its archetypal plot appealing and fresh. His seamless way of connecting the dots, which might come across as slightly haphazard in the beginning, elevates the tale to a whole new level.
That being said, some of the novel’s elements may leave the reader wanting more. The author is probably too predictably unpredictable. For instance, the handful of lines about the dark mysterious tall man in a top hat to set the story in motion, in addition to the furry little creature that helps Tristan in the forest, may evoke more curiosity than wonder in the reader’s mind. This unfinished characterization gives the impression of the narrative not being a well-structured one. Furthermore, the protagonist’s incessant recalcitrance to complete his mission without sparing enough thought for the mind-boggling mysteries unfolding around him seems a tad incongruous.
However, in spite of these couple of flaws, the story stands out as a fresh piece that assimilates several cultural myths and fairy tales and yet comes up trumps with an originality that only Neil Gaiman could imbibe. With a brilliant prose full of exciting instances of adventure at every turn and a literary style that simultaneously leaves one nostalgic as well as captivated, Stardust fully merits its rating of 4 stars out of 5. A perfect read for those who are looking for an afternoon of charm, this book can bring back that much-needed magic to a mundane lifestyle.
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