The Barnes & Noble Review
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
Tristran Thorn falls in love with the prettiest girl in town and makes her a foolish promise: he says that he'll go find the falling star they both watched streak across the night sky. She says she'll marry him if he finds it, so he sets off, leaving his home of Wall, and heads out into the perilous land of faerie, where not everything is what it appears. Gaiman is known for his fanciful wit, sterling prose and wildly imaginative plots, and Stardust is no exception. Gaiman's silver-tongued narration vividly brings this production to life. Like the bards of old, Gaiman is equally proficient at telling tales as he is at writing them, and his pleasant British accent feels like a perfect match to the material. Gaiman's performance is an extraordinary achievement-if only all authors could read their own work so well. The audiobook also includes a brief, informative and enjoyable interview with Gaiman about the writing of the novel and his work in the audiobook studio. Available as Harper Perennial (Reviews, Nov. 23, 1998). (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Foucart
When Dunstan Thorn meets a slave girl at the Faerie Market, he falls in love with her. But Dunstan lives in Wall, England, and the girl does not. Nine months later, a baby is pushed through the gap in the wall adorned only with the name "Tristran Thorn." Tristran grows up in Wall unaware of his strange parentage. One night, he makes a promise to Miss Victoria Forrester. He will recover a fallen star for her if, upon his return, she will do whatever he requests of her, be it bestowing a kiss or giving her hand in marriage. Victoria agrees, and Tristran quickly leaves. He soon discovers that the "star" he is to retrieve is actually a beautiful girl named Yvaine. Furthermore, Tristran is not the only one who wants the fallen star. A blood-thirsty trio of witches, eager to have their youth restored, has sent their eldest member in search of the fallen star. Lords Primus and Septimus of Stormhold are both eager to get their hands on the stone the star carries with her. In this movie tie-in edition, the text of the original novel remains unchanged; therefore, the story here is quite different from the film. Parents should note that this is not a fantasy novel for the younger set, as it contains one sexual encounter and graphic violence throughout the story. However, older teens will love the awkward hero who grows into his confidence and the gruesome scenes that seem to come straight out of the Grimm Brothers' own tales. With romance, action and adventure, this novel is sure to be a hit with growing fantasy fans.
Gaiman, author of a Neverwhere and the graphic novel series "The Sandman," has created an original and well-written fairy tale. Young Tristran Thorn has grown up in the isolated village of Wall, on the edge of the realm of Faerie. When Tristran and the lovely Victoria see a falling star during the special market fair, Victoria impulsively offers him his heart's desire if he will retrieve the star for her. Tristran crosses the border into Faerie and encounters witches, unicorns, and other strange creatures. What he does not know is that he is not the only one searching for the fallen star. This is a refreshingly creative story with appealing characters that manages to put a new twist on traditional fairy-tale themes. Appropriate for almost any age and a good bet for the medium-to-large public library. --Laurel Bliss, New Haven, CT
School Library Journal
An old-fashioned fairy tale full of mythic images, magic, and lyrical passages. The town of Wall has one opening, which is guarded day and night. On one side of the stone bulwark is England; on the other, Faerie. Once every nine years, the guard is relaxed so that the villagers can attend a fair held in a nearby meadow. There, as a young man, Dunstan Thorn is seduced by a strange woman, and not quite a year later a child is left at the wall. His name is Tristran Thorn. When he grows up, he falls in love with Victoria Forester, and to win her affection, he vows to bring to her the fallen star that they see one night. The star has fallen in Faerie, and though Tristran soon finds her (for in Faerie a star is not a ball of flaming gas, but a living, breathing woman), he has a hard time holding on to her. The sons of the Lord of Stormhold also seek the star, for it is said that he who finds her can take his father's throne. In addition, the oldest of three evil witches seeks the star, for her heart can grant youth and beauty. While the bones of the story--the hero, the quest, the maiden--are traditional, Gaiman offers a tale that is fresh and original. Though the plot begins with disparate threads, by the end they are all tied together and the picture is complete. The resolution is satisfying and complex, proving that there is more to fairy tales than "happily ever after."--Susan Salpini, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Like all great storytellers, Gaiman reworks the jewels of the past into exciting new shapes that sparkle even more brightly to the modern eye. Stardust is a beautifully written fairy tale for adults (and precocious children) which will refresh even the most deflated sense of wonder. It's a shimmering, shining, iridescent treasure for readers to cherish.
151; Event Horizon
The multitalented author of The Sandman graphic novels and last year's Neverwhere charms again, with a deftly written fantasy adventure tale set in early Victorian England and enriched by familiar folk materials.
In a rural town called Wall (so named for the stone bulwark that separates it from a mysterious meadow through which strange shapes are often seen moving), on "Market Day," when the citizens of "Faerie" (land) mingle with humans, young Dunstan Thorn makes love to a bewitching maiden and is presented nine months afterward with an infant son (delivered from beyond the Wall). The latter, Tristran, grows up to fall in love himself and rashly promise his beloved that he'll bring her the star they both observe falling from the sky. Tristran's ensuing quest takes him deep into Faerie, and, unbeknownst to him, competition with the star's other pursuers: three weird sisters (the Lilim), gifted with magical powers though still susceptible to "the snares of age and time"; and the surviving sons of the late Lord of Stormhold, accompanied everywhere by their several dead brothers (whom they happen to have murdered). Tristran finds his star (in human form, no less); survives outrageous tests and mishaps, including passage on a "sky-ship" and transformation into a dormouse; and, safely returned to Wall, acquires through a gracious act of renunciation his (long promised) "heart's desire."
Gaiman blends these beguiling particulars skillfully in a comic romance, reminiscent of James Thurber's fables, in which even throwaway minutiae radiate good-natured inventiveness (e.g., its hero's narrow escape from a "goblin press-gang" seeking human mercenaries to fight "the goblins' endless wars beneath the earth"). There are dozens of fantasy writers around reshaping traditional stories, but none with anything like Gaiman's distinctive wit, warmth, and narrative energy. Wonderful stuff, for kids of all ages.
“A wonderful tale . . . mythic.”
Desicritics.org on STARDUST
“[A] beautiful book, and most of all, perfect for all ages.”
“A twisting, wondrous tale full of magic that only Neil Gaiman could have written.”
“Strange...marvelous...Stardust takes us back to a time when the world was more magical, and, real or not, that world is a charming place.”
Washington Post Book World
“Eminently readable-a charming piece of work.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Beautiful, memorable . . . A book full of marvels.”
Dayton Daily News
“A charming comic romance.”
“A wonderful novel . . . A pleasure to read.”
Grand Rapids Press
“Delightful...a strange yet wonderful story.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“His finest work yet...Sometimes sparse, sometimes witty, often lyrical...prose as smooth as 12-year-old scotch.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Marvelous adventures . . . magical and fun.”
“Sparkling, fresh, and charming. Superb.”
Dallas Morning News
“Thrilling . . . Stardust reads like a mix between L. Frank Baum, the Brothers Grimm, and a Tim Burton movie script.”
Detroit Free Press
“[A] tale about love, danger, friendship, magic, and adventure . . . a short novel that delivers big-time satisfaction.”
Read an Excerpt
Chapter OneIn Which We Learn of the Village of Wall, and of the
Curious Thing That Occurs There Every Nine Years
There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire.
And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although even he never knew the whole of it.
The tale started, as many tales have started, in Wall.
The town of Wall stands today as it has stood for six hundred years, on a high jut of granite amidst a small forest woodland. The houses of Wall are square and old, built of grey stone, with dark slate roofs and high chimneys; taking advantage of every inch of space on the rock, the houses lean into each other, are built one upon the next, with here and there a bush or tree growing out of the side of a building.
There is one road from Wall, a winding track rising sharply up from the forest, where it is lined with rocks and small stones. Followed far enough south, out of the forest, the track becomes a real road, paved with asphalt; followed further the road gets larger, is packed at all hours with cars and trucks rushing from city to city. Eventually the road takes you to London, but London is a whole night's drive from Wall.
The inhabitants of Wall are a taciturn breed, falling into two distinct types: the native Wall-folk, as, grey and tall and stocky as the granite outcrop their town was built upon; and the others, who have made Wall their home over the years, and their descendants.
Below Wall on the westis the forest; to the south is a treacherously placid lake served by the streams that drop from the hills behind Wall to the north. There are fields upon the hills, on which sheep graze. To the east is more woodland.
Immediately to the east of Wall is a high grey rock wall, from which the town takes its name. This wall is old, built of rough, square lumps of hewn granite, and it comes from the woods and goes back to the woods once more.
There is only one break in the wall; an opening about six feet in width, a little to the north of the village.
Through the gap in the wall can be seen a large green meadow; beyond the meadow, a stream; and beyond the stream there are trees. From time to time shapes and figures can be seen, amongst the trees, in the distance. Huge shapes and odd shapes and small, glimmering things which flash and glitter and are gone. Although it is perfectly good meadowland, none of the villagers has ever grazed animals on the meadow on the other side of the wall. Nor have they used it for growing crops.
Instead, for hundreds, perhaps for thousands of years, they have posted guards on each side of the opening on the wall, and done their best to put it out of their minds.
Even today, two townsmen stand on either side of the opening, night and day, taking eight-hour shifts. They carry hefty wooden cudgels. They flank the opening on the town side.
Their main function is to prevent the town's children from going through the opening, into the meadow and beyond. Occasionally they are called upon to discourage a solitary rambler, or one of the few visitors to the town, from going through the gateway.
The children they discourage simply with displays of the cudgel. Where ramblers and visitors are concerned, they are more inventive, only using physical force as a last resort if tales of new-planted grass, or a dangerous bull on the loose, are not sufficient.
Very rarely someone comes to Wall knowing what they are looking for, and these people they will sometimes allow through. There is a look in the eyes, and once seen it cannot be mistaken.
There have been no cases of smuggling across the wall in all the Twentieth Century, that the townsfolk know of, and they pride themselves on this.
The guard is relaxed once every nine years, on May Day, when a fair comes to the meadow.
The events that follow transpired many years ago. Queen Victoria was on the throne of England, but she was not yet the black-clad widow of Windsor: she had apples in her cheeks and a spring in her step, and Lord Melbourne often had cause to upbraid, gently, the young queen for her flightiness. She was, as yet, unmarried, although she was very much in love.
Mr. Charles Dickens was serializing his novel Oliver Twist; Mr. Draper had just taken the first photograph of the moon, freezing her pale face on cold paper; Mr. Morse had recently announced a way of transmitting messages down metal wires.
Had you mentioned magic or Faerie to any of them, they would have smiled at you disdainfully, except, perhaps for Mr. Dickens, at the time a young man, and beardless. He would have looked at you wistfully.
People were coming to the British Isles that spring. They came in ones, and they came in twos, and they landed at Dover or in London or in Liverpool: men and women with skins as pale as paper, skins as dark as volcanic rock, skins the color of cinnamon, speaking in a multitude of tongues. They arrived all through April, and they traveled by steam train, by horse, by caravan or cart, and many of them walked.
At that time Dunstan Thorn was eighteen, and he was not a romantic.
He had nut-brown hair, and nut-brown eyes, and nutbrown freckles. He was middling tall, and slow of speech. He had an easy smile, which illuminated his face from within... Stardust. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.