Neil Gaiman,
(Avon, 1999)

Fairy tales are not always bedtime stories suitable for a 5-year-old niece. Indeed, this particular fairy tale is written specifically for adults. The story follows the requisite young hero, Tristran Thorn, from pre-birth through his hero's journey. This journey begins on a whim -- the whim of a beautiful young lady. Why else would an otherwise sensible young man brave the terrors of Faerie to seek a falling star, unless he had promised it to a beautiful young lady?

With the help of a gift from his father and a hairy brownie (who is an excellent cook), Tristran Thorn ventures into the dangerous wood to fetch the fallen star -- which is not at all what he expected. In fact, the star is a magical young woman, Yvaine, who has broken her leg in the course of her fall from the sky.

Together, the two manage to elude the pitfalls and traps, including those who seek to use the star for their own nefarious purposes. They also make friends who help them in the quest, and moments from familiar fairy tales make cameo appearances in new guises.

Magic, spells, blessings and curses all prove mixed and sometime not recognized. Faerie is not all dangers dressed in fine feathers, however, there is enough danger and trickery that the reader may wonder just how Tristran will think his way out of them.

Neil Gaiman's writing is vivid and clear, painting the pictures with words in a cinematic way. For fans of his Sandman series, here is a chance to venture into a different facet of Gaiman. This is a lighter, one might even say cheerful, style of writing, though the dark and dangerous side of Faerie is also stressed. Stardust is a friendly introduction to Gaiman's work, one worth owning. It doesn't matter whether you have appreciated his previous work or are picking it up as your first foray into Gaiman's world, this is an adult fantasy that will whisk you off to a world where dreams come true and heart's desires are fulfilled.

In addition to the novel, there is also a graphic novel version of Stardust illustrated by Charles Vess.

by Beth Derochea
6 June 1999

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