What I love about Neil Gaiman is his sense of humor and the ridiculous. I found that when I read Stardust and again now that I’m reading Neverwhere. Gaiman’s narrator becomes a character in the story and asserts himself in hilarious ways, reminding you that somewhere, there is a puppetmaster pulling the strings of the story. Strangely, this does not remove readers from connection with the story; rather, it feels like you’re being led through the world of the novel like Virgil guided Dante in The Divine Comedy. You’re standing right next to the author. It’s an interesting effect.
In Stardust, Gaiman weaves a world of utter romance, whimsy, and beauty. It reminded me why I used to love fantasy stories and fairy tales: I adore magic. In Stardust, these elements are utilized with sophistication but I love that the author’s voice is slightly irreverent, as if he’s poking fun at tropes by standing them on their heads. Meet Tristran Thorn, a dreamy young man of half-fairy parentage who finds himself crossing a magical Wall into the world of Faerie in order to retrieve a fallen star for his crush, the mean-girl Victoria.
Tristran expects a lump of rock. What he gets is a limping ice-blonde woman with a volatile temper and a tendency to shimmer. Also attending this British magical party are seven brothers fighting for the crown of Stormhold, a few witches who like to predict the future using animals’ entrails, and an interesting persona named Ditchwater Sal. There’s a fair measure of danger and a “hero’s journey,” but again, these conventions are twisted and turned, making for a more interesting read.
What I loved about this book, apart from the witty and sarcastic voice, was the fact that this is a fairy tale for adults. The writing is simple but it sparkles in its simplicity. It’s funny and light-hearted, yet epic and sweeping in scope, leaving you with that satisfied end-of-a-fairy-tale feeling without the conventional ending. Honestly, it kind of warms your heart in the best way.
She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars. (250)
Gaiman, N. (1999) Stardust. New York, NY: HarperCollins.