Submitted by Gerti
“Stardust” is the third book by Neil Gaiman that I have recently read, and it bears a strong resemblance to the last book “Neverwhere” – as it also involves a world that is different from that in which we humans normally live. The book begins in the small British village of Wall, which necessarily has an enormous wall on one side of it, through which there is a passage with guards from the town stationed on either side of it. On the other side of this opening, one can see a meadow, and some trees in the distance, but the guards are ordered to keep residents and visitors to Wall from passing through it, due to the magical nature of what exists over there. However, once every 9 years, there a market in the meadow, and residents of town and beyond get together to meet and trade goods.
Teeing up the fairy tale, for that is what the story becomes, is Dunstan Thorn, a Wall resident who like every young man of a certain age is in love with a local girl. It is time for the market, however, and he goes through the gap in order to find a lovely little trinket for his sweetheart. Instead, he finds an old witch who owns a stand offering beautiful glass flowers which make an unearthly music. The old woman’s servant is a lovely young girl who is chained to the stand, but Dunstan still manages to buy a flower from her. However, when the girl kisses him he becomes enchanted, and returns to the fair late at night to make love to the slave girl. After the market, life goes back to normal in Wall, until a small baby appears on the village side of the gap one night. A name tag attached to him calls the baby Tristan Thorn, and Dunstan and his beloved village girl (who have gotten married by this point and had a baby of their own) take the child in.
Years pass, and Tristan falls in love with another gorgeous village girl, and promises to do anything if she’ll only kiss him. When the pair see a falling star, she asks him to get it for her, and he has to pass from the village into the meadow to do so. Then his adventures really begin, for he discovers that the fallen star is actually a living creature in fairy land, and that although he also has a chain to bind her, he let’s her go of his own free will. She runs away, but a tree tells him he must save her, for a pack of witches needs the star’s heart in order to bring back their youth. Fortunately, Tristan is such a good-natured creature, that everything in the forest is willing to help him, whether unicorn or dwarf, and he is able to save the star (whose name is Yvain) from imminent death. Of course, they fall in love, and the story has a few more twists and mysteries before Tristan can become the king he is destined to be with Yvain by his side. There is a secondary plot involving seven murderous uncles of his who also want to rule, but things turned out in the best possible way, as they do in any good fairy tale.
I love Gaiman’s imagination, and his sense of morality, which comes through loud and clear in this book, as the good guys always win, and even the bad guys often undergo a change of heart. A lovely story for a snowy afternoon.