Stardust by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Let me start my review by coming clean: I confess I saw the movie first. I personally think it makes for less disappointment when you watch the movie first. In this case, I would say the movie does a pretty respectable job of translating this book to a wider audience. They make the ending a bit more conventional and take out some moments that I think would be way too shocking for a movie. Also, the characters lack the ambivalence of Neil Gaiman's written characters (another way to make the story more screen-friendly). Gaiman tends to make characters that fall more neutral than truly good or evil, and there are more than a few in this book.
For readers who want to go right to the source material, I definitely recommend reading this book if you saw the movie. Neil Gaiman's voice remains true here, and you can see his original vision for this 'grown up fairy tale' in his own words.
For the fourth time, I have to say it's a pleasure to read an audiobook narrated by the author. His voice really does soothe me. I also loved the question and answer at the end with Gaiman. As a person who loves both the writing and reading aspects of literature, I find a view into the creative process of the author irresistible. He seems like a person who truly adores books, and I can't fault him for that. And with this being a rather short book, it was interesting to hear its genesis, which was actually as a graphic novel. One day, I hope to read the graphic novel version with illustrations that I don't doubt were gorgeous. I do own the print copy of the novel, although I chose to listen to this on audio the first time.
So as far as the storyline, I liked it a lot. Tristran has an ordinary boy in unusual circumstances feel that grounds the reader in this story full of magic. He's down-to-earth and like a boy thrilling for adventure. Yvaine is both arrogant and haughty and sweet and innocent. She feels both ancient and very young at the same time. It makes sense that they would fall for each other, although I personally didn't feel that Gaiman spends much time on developing chemistry between them (I know he's not a romance writer, so I will give him some slack on that). The Witch Queen was a wicked, horrible woman who deserved a worse ending than she got, especially after what she does to that precious unicorn (nobody messes with unicorns while I'm around). I felt the climax of the final sons of Stormhold to be anticlimactic and I liked the movie version better in that regard. I did like the resolution of Tristran's meeting with his so-called love Victoria though. For readers who want the out and out happy endings of Disney movies and kid-friendly fairy tales, they might be disappointed with the way things ended. I guess on one level I feel that Gaiman does commit some sins in that regard, but the ending felt more like a realistic ending for a fairy tale, and I liked how even with reality in play, there was some happy ending for most of its characters. I think that the underlying message of this story is that we should all reach for stars in our lives, but at the same time, keep our feet on the ground. At least that was what I took from the story. Neil Gaiman may have intended something quite different.
My Neil Gaiman reading journey ends up with another like to his ongoing tally.
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