Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Author Neil Gaiman has earned both critical and commercial success with his original stories and ability to adapt to various mediums. His 1998 novel Stardust is perhaps his most famous work. With the story released as a serialized comic, graphic novel, novel, and film adaptation, Gaiman's Stardust has obviously connected with audiences around the world. After years of seeing the novel in book stores and hearing positive comments about Gaiman, I decided to finally read the story for myself. The beautiful gift edition of the novel, that I had the pleasure of reading, instantly sets the tone for the "grown up fairy tale" that you are about the read. It is a bound, hardcover version that is made to look as if it is very old and well loved.

The story itself immediately begins with a timeless feel. The novel begins in the city of Wall. Literally, the city lies within the confines of a large wall. Only one opening exists in this structure, and it is diligently guarded by the local men of the town. Insiders are let out of the city every nine years when a traveling market sets up in the meadow outside of the city. Outsiders rarely enter Wall, and so the people of Wall live a peaceful, but sheltered life.

 We learn of young Tristan who is, like most young men his age, madly in love with a girl who wants nothing to do with him. As he walks the young Victoria home from the store at which he works, he begins to plead for her love, offering anything he can think of in return. As this kind of pathetic attempt continues, the two notice a star shooting across the sky. In a final plea of desperation, oddly similar to the scene in the film It's a Wonderful Life where George offers Mary the moon, Tristan offers Victoria the Star in exchange for her heart.

So begins the magical story of Tristan's journey to recover the fallen star. Of course, he is not the only one who is searching for the star. As he exits the safety of wall and embarks upon this fantastic voyage, he comes into contact with evil witches who long for their lost youth, embattled princes who fight for the rights to their father's throne, and a strange merchant lady who may hold the answers to Tristans mysterious past.

Gaiman expertly captures the timeless feel that all good fantasy stories have. His characters are all unique and Tristan in particular is one who you can't help but root for. Rather than try to forge a story with all original content, Gaiman embraces the history of the genre and simply puts his own style into it. From beginning to end, this story held my interest, and kept me genuinely invested. If I had to make any complaint, it would be that the ending could have been fleshed out a bit more. Other than that, this is a masterful display of storytelling that is everything it sets out to be.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(2013: week 15, book 12)

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