“Every fairy tale had a bloody lining.”
Stardust by Neil Gaiman is set in the Victorian era and follows Tristran Thorn’s story. Tristran is a young but naïve man who has never ventured outside of his home town, Wall. In an attempt to woo the beautiful Victoria Forester, the woman he believes he loves, Tristran foolishly agrees to retrieve a fallen star in the name of love. To do that, Tristran has to cross the wall that borders his town and the magical land of Faerie. When Tristran finds the star he is expecting a lump of rock. As all things are different in Faerie, the star is in fact a beautiful woman named Yvaine. The problem is Tristran isn’t the only one hunting for the star. There are three Princes of Stormhold, who are in a race to find the star because whoever possesses the star will be named the new Lord of Stormhold, and three evil witches, who seek the star so they can cut out her heart in order to restore their youth and beauty. Will Tristran be able to protect Yvaine?
I must confess I actually watched the movie before reading the book. I watched a terrible version of the movie on the internet to begin with, so my first impression was not great. About a year later, I watched the DVD of Stardust and LOVED IT! I decided I would read the book next. Generally, books tend to be even better than the movie so I was beyond excited. I enjoyed the book, but this is one of the rare occasions where I think the movie is better.
I did enjoy a few things about the book. First, there is more about the land of Faerie than in the movie. There was always something interesting just around the corner and so I found the book intriguing to read. Second, the book was MUCH MORE VIOLENT than the movie. The description of how the witch slaughters the Unicorn, for example, is graphic and delightfully disturbing. It is at these points that you realise this is not a traditional fairy tale. It is one definitely written for adults, not children. Also, the sex scenes are also graphic, another reminder that this is not traditional fairy tale. I liked all this because I’m a fan of fairy tales but they do tend to air on the childish side. This book filled that niche. Third, I loved Yvaine. It is rare to come across a strong woman in fantasy fiction, and Yvaine is probably the strongest woman I have come across. I also liked her because she is unexpected, and actually quite grumpy and rude at times. When we first meet Yvaine, this is what happens: “And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice, which said ‘Ow’, and then, very quietly, it said ‘Fuck”, and then it said ‘Ow’, once more.”
The main problem with the book is the ending. It falls flat. I understand why it happened and it is clever. I also suppose that some people will find it romantic, but it was a bit sickly sweet to me. I just wanted a little more action. I mean, the three little pigs burnt the wolf at the end of The Three Little Pigs, and the huntsman killed the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. Stardust is meant to be a fairy tale for adults, and I guess I just didn’t appreciate the ending. I much preferred the ending in the movie version of Stardust. The battle between the witch and Tristran for Yvaine is epic. Part of what made the movie so brilliant was Prince Septimus, who is played by Mark Strong The scenes where the witch links the Prince to a voodoo doll and fights Tristran with the Prince’s dead body are some of the best in film history, in my opinion. I was saddened that this wasn’t part of the original story. In fact, Septimus plays a much smaller role in the book.
Final Verdict: I hate to say this, but I would actually recommend that you watch the movie Stardust rather than read the book.