The fascinating and engaging new novel from Neil Gaiman, one of the premier writers of fantasy, is here. Stardust is a fantasy tale extravaganza, a mythical quest for love, starting with the heart's desire of a young man and his eventual travels throughout the world of Faerie. In the tradition of his Neverwhere and graphic novel The Books of Magic, Gaiman twines threads of several plotlines deftly together to form a Dunsanianlike fairy tale of fellowship, passion, and humanity's place in an always unpredictable and continuously changing, magical world.
During the Victorian era, in the small village of Wall, a stone barrier separates our world from the land of Faerie. Although there is a break in the bulwark, which is constantly guarded by two townsmen with cudgels, there are hardly ever any troubles between the two realms. Once every nine years, during "the Market," villagers and outsiders are allowed to enter Faerie and sell, buy, and trade with the magical inhabitants. During the Market, young Dunstan Thorn is given his "heart's desire" and soon finds himself making love to an alluring but cursed faerie maiden.
Dunstan returns to Wall to marry Daisy Hempstock, but nine months later an infant is found at the crack in the barrier with a card pinned to its blanket reading: Tristan Thorn. Tristan grows to manhood as a human, but certain faerie features and abilities make themselves known. He falls in love with the standoffish Victoria Forester, and in the heat of a romantic moment promises her anything she might wish. As they watch a star fall toearth,Victoria jokingly promises that she will marry Tristan if he returns with the star.
True to his own oath, Tristan sets out to find the star for his beloved. Once in Faerie, his mystical heritage comes in handy as he recalls places and history that he's never been formally taught. However, Tristan isn't the only one hunting for the star, and his competitors are decidedly unfriendly. An ancient trio of witch-queens called the Lilim need the star's heart to add years of youth to their already near-immortal lives, and will stop at nothing to gain what they want. Also in search of the star are the three remaining devious and deadly sons of the Lord of Stormhold, for therein lies the power of their family. Eventually, though, Tristan discovers the fallen star, which appears as a lovely young woman with a broken leg, and though he's forced to take her with him against her will, he eventually becomes her sworn protector.
With a cast that ranges from lovesick swains to talking trees and humanoid stars, Neil Gaiman offers a wonderful balance in Stardust between the human and inhuman, with displays of winsome, lighthearted wit welded to scenes of a more serious and darker nature. Gaiman is skilled at capturing various fantasy elements and fashioning a unique blend from timeless ingredients. Stardust, with its multifaceted narrative vision, delivers a distinctive magical tale full of bewitching charms that the reader won't be able to resist.
Tom Piccirilli, barnesandnoble.com