Book and Movie Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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StardustGaimanbookcover       stardust-poster

The novel was first published in 1999, with illustrations by Charles Vess.

The tale begins in the English village of Wall, named after the long, old structure that separates the village from the magical land of Faerie. Guarded at all times, no one is allowed to cross the wall except on market day. Held in the forest every 9 years, hundreds of visitors come from all over the world and stalls with all sorts of inconceivable and magical things are opened for trade. Dunston Thorn ventures into Faerie for the first time. He’s a young man, about to be married. But in the market he comes across a beautiful slave girl from whom he buys a glass snowdrop. After spending the night with her, Dunston returns to his village and marries his fiancé. A few months later, a bundle comes for him from the other side of the wall: a baby.

18 years later, Tristran Thorn, a clerk at the local supply store, is in love with the village beauty, Victoria. One day they see a star fall into Faerie, and Tristran foolishly promises Victoria that he will bring her the star, in exchange for a promise to do anything he asks of her. Victoria agrees, not believing that he will actually do it. As Tristran prepares to cross to the other side, his father reveals his true origins to him. The guards at the wall also don’t try to stop him, because they know.

The story follows Tristran’s adventures in Faerie as he searches for and finds the star, who turns out to be a young woman. Other characters whose paths intertwine with their’s, are the royal family of Stormhold, three evil and ancient witches known as the Lillim, a solitary witch Semele, and others.

Will Tristan convince the star to accompany him back home? Will the heirs of Stormhold find the family heirloom and discover the next heir? And will the witches succeed in getting eternal youth and immortality again?

Stardust is very different from Coraline and Nevewhere – lighter. Gaiman’s world building is beautiful with good imagery. The writing, as expected, is very imaginative and a little mysterious. The description of Faerie, especially the market is wonderful. The story is charming, with little things connecting together. It’s fun to see how the different players have their own agendas, and how each one has a part to play in the others’ story. Overall the book is nice, with a dreamy, otherworldly feel to it. I think that is what makes the book special.

However, the sexual and violent scenes are sudden and very jarring. The abrupt changes in the writing during these scenes throws one off. In contrast, the relationship of Tristan and Yvainne lacks all emotion. You don’t feel anything for them, there’s no segue in their relationship. Yvainne is more of a cardboard cutout with no personality. It seemed to me that Tristan and Yvainne have deliberately been separated from the intensity evident in the other scenes. As if their lives and love are not supposed to be carnal and violent.

The resolution in the end without the anticipated fight was surprising, but also disappointing, especially after all the violence and dogged pursuits throughout the book. And Lady Una turned out to be a very dis-likable character, unlike how I thought she’d be. The ending was unexpected and sad – a tad disappointing. I was hoping for more. 

The film was released in 2007. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Service), written with Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Kingsman: The Secret Service). It stars an ensemble cast; Charlie Cox, Ben Barnes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Clare Danes, Robert DeNiro, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Nathaniel Parker, Melanie Hill, Peter O’Toole, Ian McKellen, Henry Cavill and others.

I had seen the movie years before reading the book, and did not anticipate liking the movie more. There are many movies, which are as good as their literary origins, but for me, this would be the first time that a book did not live up to its film.

The movie is romantic where the book isn’t. It provides the transition from hate to love, to an extent, which the book failed at. The characters are well fleshed out, detailed, and hence very enjoyable. The casting is well done: I especially loved Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro and Clare Danes.

The parts of the movie, basically the foundation, which are true to the book have been done well. And the parts which differ are equally good. DeNiro’s character has been much expanded. From being a side character with barely a presence, the filmmakers have given him a major chunk in the movie, with a twist. It’s not unpleasant, rather the source of most fun. The lack of action in the end of the book is, naturally, pursued to its end in the movie. The story has been made audience friendly.

There’s plenty of suspense and laughs, with a solid plot and good acting, making Stardust an enjoyable watch.                                 

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About Sapphire

Hi, I'm 23 years old. I enjoy reading fantasies, mysteries/thrillers, romances... mostly fiction. My choice in movies is widespread. Series mostly consist of crime and comedy shows with occasional dramas and sit-coms. My close friends and family kept saying (complaining) that I critique most of what I read and watch, so I decided to pursue it, here! View all posts by Sapphire

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