This was my fantasy pick for 2018.
I love Neil Gaiman! Much like Alice Hoffman and Stephen King, I feel like I will enjoy anything that Gaiman puts out, but I am woefully behind on his works. I haven’t really read a whole lot, although I own copious amounts. So when I was trying to decide what fantasy novel to pick this year, Stardust caught my eye sitting on my shelf! I thought the movie was really fun, but slightly juvenile. I hoped that the book would be a bit more mature, a bit more complex, and maybe a bit spookier. I was super wrong.
Here is the description from Goodreads: “Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…”
I felt incredibly blah about Stardust. The tone was very confusing to me. There were parts that were very intense, mature, and yes even a bit spooky or graphic, but they were then followed up by some incredibly childish nonsense. I know I’m reading a fairy tale quest inspired by children’s literature, but I’ve been reading those my whole life. The ones I read as a child (like the Snow Queen) were more engaging and intense than this book. Frankly, I was bored.
As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m honestly working really hard to think of interesting things to discuss about this book. I loved the world he created and all the little details, but perhaps my issue was with Tristran, our hero. He was way to squeaky clean for me. His naivete was almost sickening.
Perhaps an interesting thing to think about are the women in this book. I felt like a lot of them were the catalysts for action. Without the women and the motivation they provided, the central adventures in this story would not have happened. Honestly, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. The women were the most interesting part of this book, and yet they were mostly side characters. I wanted the story to be focused on them.
How about we kick Tristran and his doofy dad out of the plot and have the adventurer be the town beauty, Victoria Forester! Victoria can be a Belle type, where she yearns for more than just being the object of creepy attention from every single dude in her shitty little town. She wants adventure and substance, so one night when she sees a star fall from the sky, she decides to go find it. She hits the streets, encounters many magical creatures and fantastical situations. She uses her smarts, which no one even bothered to recognize in her at home, to get out of some crazy jams! She befriends old crones and unicorns. She finally finds Yvaine, the star, and then we get a whole awesome story about two women bonding and becoming friends, maybe even lovers (oh my god how awesome would that be???).
They defeat the creepy Lords of Stormhold ( who I actually quite enjoyed) and, in a feminist twist, bring peace to The Lilim and the Witch Queen (who I also liked). They then free Lady Una from her enslavement to Madame Semele, and as a reward they are given places of honor in her court. But, like in the actual book, the two decide to continue their adventures about the land together. See, just replacing Tristran with Victoria was all I needed to get very excited about this story. Also, I just realized that I definitely liked the “evil” characters or unlikable characters a lot more than the characters we are supposed to side with.
Listen, friends. I’m sorry I’m not being very exciting or interesting with this post, but that’s because I found the book to not be very exciting or interesting. But hey, you can’t win them all. I still enjoy Gaiman and will excitedly read his other works. What are your favorite Neil Gaiman books??