Spoiler alert! This review reveals significant plot details.
One last book review from 2017! I almost forgot I read this, because I read it into a microphone. I recorded a bespoke audiobook of Stardust as a Christmas gift for a friend who hasn’t had a lot of time to read and is trying to get back into it with audiobooks. I chose Stardust for its length and because it has an upbeat ending, which is something my friend expressed more interest in after not really enjoying Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Much to my surprise, when I went to read my previous review of this book … there wasn’t one! I have never read this book since I joined Goodreads in May 2008. So I guess I need to review it now that I’ve recently read it again.
Stardust is a Neil Gaiman novel and has many of the hallmarks of such. Yet it’s also somewhat odd. When I started re-reading it this time, I actually found myself … not enjoying it at first. Gaiman adopts a somewhat more stylized approach to narration and storytelling. Although elements of his typical wit shine through in places, there are moments when the story seems to get bogged down. Also, I forgot how whiny and entitled Tristran is, at least at first. And not a little bit creepy when the discovery that the fallen star he wants to retrieve is a woman with a mind of her own.
Basically, the book took a while to endear itself to me—but endear itself it did. The gradual raising of the stakes and masterful use of dramatic irony to increase the tension leads to some delightful moments as the various subplots come together. And as much as I’m not a fan of Tristran at the start, I enjoy his character arc across the novel. Stardust is part fairytale and part bildungsroman.
I don’t actually enjoy this as a love story. Putting aside for the moment the way Yvaine falls for a guy whom she meets when he kidnaps her, I’m not sure what they see in each other. Yvaine is (understandably) pissed off about her fall and subsequent situation, yet beyond that, we don’t really learn much about her personality. Tristran grows, matures, and learns, for certain, but he basically seems to stick with Yvaine because that’s what he has been doing this entire time.
I’ll divulge a dirty little secret now: this is one of the few books in existence whose movie adaptation I feel is superior. Almost always the book is better than the movie, but Stardust is an exception. From the changes to the story to the actors and the new characters, the movie is a revel and romp that I absolutely adore. The novel, while it has its high points, feels like a very flawed work in comparison.
In the end, if you’re looking for some fairytale-esque fantasy, then this book has something for you. It has a quest-like structure and a happily-ever-after and various set-pieces that might feel familiar. And I really did enjoy re-reading it, and literally reading it, and I hope it warms my friend’s heart when she listens to it. Yet Stardust is far from one of my favourite of Gaiman’s works. That’s not a bad thing—he has some pretty strong entries!—but it makes me less eager to revisit this in the future.