’ve been reading a lot of angry books recently – all fulla leftists and carpet bombing B-52s and Nazis and neo-punks racing across deserts. Thus, it was nice to sit back and crack the cover of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. He co-wrote a novel with another author I loved, Terry Pratchett (Good Omens), which I most thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve read a couple of his other books, Anansi Boys and American Gods, so I figured I’d be getting a good read after such grim tomes.
He didn’t disappoint. With a dose of whimsy, we are introduced to the town of Wall which exists at the gap (in a wall) between our world and that of Faerie. Strange things go on there, yet every nine years a fair is held and many things bought and sold, lost and gained. And one of the things Dunstan Thorn gains (nine months after he lies with an exotic slave woman “over there”) is a son.
The boy grows up well but of course, like all young men, falls in love and makes foolish promises. In this case, while trying to talk a blushing maid for her hand, he tells her that he will retrieve a star seen to fall “over there”, well in the distance. How bad can it be, right?
The boy, helped somewhat by his mixed blood but mostly by his English steadfast can-do fair-play spirit journeys across this strange land. But it turns out this quest is not just his. Witches, princes, all sorts of people saw this star fall and all of them want it too. And to make it worse, it turns out the fallen star is (as things happen in Faerie) actually a young girl. And even worser, she has a broken leg.
So we have all the fixtures of high fantasies – distance, battles, journeys, swordfights, even unicorns. I really rather liked it – Gaiman does a great job capturing pre-Tolkien English fantasy, complete with the wordy titles and earnest dialog. And I’ll say (without spoilers) that it all wrapped up nicely in ways I didn’t see coming.
I understand there is a movie which the wife and I will be watching shortly. Just watched the trailer and, as is common with books, there seems little in common between the two. Still, The Blue Max was good as a movie and a book, so there is hope. We’ll see. But if you like your fantasy friendly and cute and fun and deeply satisfying, you should check this one out.