Tristran Thorn is half-human and half-fairy, and fully in love with the most beautiful girl in his small town of Wall, which guards the barrier between the mortal world and the world of Faerie. Her name is Victoria, and one day, while Tristran walks her home, they see a shooting star fall beyond the wall – and he swears that he will bring that star back to her, to win her love.
Stardust was originally published in 1999.
This is a love story, but romance is definitely not all there is to it. In some places it’s all about the adventure; in others, it managed to be pretty disturbing (though thankfully without venturing too deep into horror territory. I don’t scare well). I found the pacing a little slow at the beginning of the book, during the chapter that centred on Tristran’s father, but the story picked up very quickly afterwards, and had me hooked right up until the end – which managed to be both unexpected, and entirely appropriate in a dramatic sense. I wasn’t initially sure whether or not I liked how the plot was resolved, but after some time to think about it, I’ve come down firmly on the “liked it” side. 🙂
The two main characters in the book are Tristran and Yvaine, two very different characters, who are at odds for much of the book. Tristran is, of course, trying to bring the fallen star back to Victoria, in hopes of winning her affection; Yvaine, on the other hand, is stuck tagging along on his journey, and would very much like to leave. Both characters are extremely likeable, and it’s very easy to sympathise with both of their situations.
Other important characters include two of the heirs of the faerie castle of Stormhold – Primus and Septimus – who are each searching for a particular magical gemstone that will allow them to become the next Lord, while simultaneously trying to outwit the other; the Queen of the Lilim, a fearsome witch who is also searching for the star, which will restore her youth; another witch, of rather less ability, who has enslaved Tristran’s faerie mother; a strange, hairy man who accompanies Tristran for the first leg of his journey; the captain and crew of a sky-ship, which sails around the clouds, fishing for lightning bolts; and a wonderful unicorn. (The unicorn is my favourite.)
Victoria is also quite important to the story, but more because of her effect on Tristran than because of her actual character. We see little of her during the larger part of the story, but she is conspicuous in her absence; Tristran thinks about her constantly.
Despite the summary I gave of the story, the actual romance is not between Tristran and Victoria – who never believes for a second that Tristran will follow through with his promise – but between Tristran and Yvaine. It’s a slow-building relationship, but definitely worth waiting for. I loved watching their relationship grow, and their feelings develop, and Yvaine’s stubborn offence at Tristram’s behaviour provides a good amount of tension between them.
The world-building in this book is probably its strongest point (though, to be honest, everything about the book was pretty much perfect). The world of Faerie was incredibly well developed, and beautifully described, and Gaiman somehow managed to portray it as simultaneously enchanting and harrowing; as lovely as it is deadly.
There’s not really much that I can say about the writing, except that it was excellent, and really brought across the whimsical nature of Faerie and its inhabitants. Several steps up from anything else I’ve read recently.
OVERALL IMPRESSION [5/5]
A very sweet love story, set in a beautifully fleshed-out world, that is both sinister and lovely. Tristran and Yvaine are both wonderful characters, but this book really shines is in the writing and the world-building, both of which were perfect.
Lovers of fairytales in the more traditional sense, such as the works of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen & Charles Perrault. For something a bit more recent, Stardust will probably also appeal to fans of The Princess Bride by William Goldman.