Written March 1, 2012.
Neil Gaiman’s Stardust
People can go through great lengths for “true love”. What may be unknown, however, is what defines great lengths. Gaiman provides a fresh breath of air, or rather Stardust, as he weaves this enchanting fantasy about a young man named Tristan who decides to retrieve a fallen star for his beloved. Prematurely it seems everything will go smoothly, but this false proclamation of love bestows an unexpected journey for Tristan as he goes through self-discovery. And of course, as with any unique fantasy novels, not only does Tristan encounter dead princes, curses, flying pirates but also unicorns, lions, and witches – oh my!
A young man living in the town of Wall, Tristan Thorn plays the only naive normal character who wishes to “gain his Heart’s Desire”. Yvaine (yes, even the names sound elfish!) is the determined fallen star who takes Tristan “on [the] most exhilarating adventure of his life” while stumbling on an unforeseen destiny herself. Gaiman’s characterizations lean towards an adult perspective with their pure wit and dark British humor. All the while princes and witches seek the star as well, but rather than wanting to present it as a gift to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria whom Tristan has his eye on, they wish to gain control of a vast kingdom and eat its heart to gain immortality, respectively. As per usual, unicorns get eaten by lions and reasonably pirates aboard a flying vessel find it appropriate to capture poor Tristan and Yvaine. Hexes then fly about stealing momentous memories and princes get brutally murdered. Surrounded by this paradoxical adventure of chaos and perfection, Tristan and Yvaine manage to fall in love and circumstances only grow stranger.
Gaiman provides a story with words that lift themselves off the page and are consequentially able to flow easily into the mind, putting readers right into the magic of the story. The book almost reads itself, and before one can realize it, the book is nearly finished. Images of darkness, true and false love, inner and external battles all present themselves beautifully without the aid of a single illustration. Beware, however, as the tale can trick one into believing it is like most faerie tales for it is actually nothing close, similar, alike, or even comparable in greatness.
Finally, with Stardust, older folk can lose themselves for a few hours and read about kingdoms, witchcraft and talking trees without being ashamed. And should a younger individual decide to, they too will not be disappointed. Through forming his own unique formula for fantasy, Gaiman presents old archetypes of witches and royalty and mixes his own original convictions through fallen stars, flying pirates, and even unicorns to present a fairy tale where preconceived notions of a typical fairy tale are destroyed. No feelings will be unresolved with Stardust, unless one feels a strong attachment towards unicorns, of which then they should still read the book so as to leave with a new found respect for the precious creatures.