There is this small town in Victorian England. It is separated from a huge meadow that leads into an enchanted forest by a Wall. A child is born that is of both Faery and the little town. When he grows up he promises to fetch a fallen star for the woman he loves. Off he goes into the forest of faery adventure.
I watched Stardust the movie nearly a couple of years ago. There was just one way to describe the movie - magical! I mean, there are lots of fantasy movies that have been churned out of the movie industry lately, but very few really convey or bring out the magicalness (I am aware this isn't really a word, but it seems to express what I want to say pretty well!) that appeals to the child in us. I thought Stardust did that quite well.
Having watched the movie I didn't think I needed to read the book. But then, urged again by my friend, I bought a copy of the book and read it recently. A couple of chapters into the book and I knew why my friend had called it "whimsically magical". I think it was the crisp language that sparkled as the star the story was about. Descriptions were short, but so...well...bright and crystal clear! For example:...the stars were laid out like worlds or like ideas, uncountable as the trees in a forest or the leaves on a tree. (p.32)
There were also short, off-at-a-tangent references to mice and owls being royalty that had to complete missions to break the spells they were under, and other little things of the kind. It made me wish he could have elaborated on them, but then if he had it would have spoilt the "whimsical" part of the story. '...The squirrel has not yet found the acorn that will grow into the oak that will be cut to form the cradle of the babe who will grow to slay me.' (p.96)
It was such a pleasure reading these little things since they added to the overall effect of faery. I found Gaiman's sense of humour quite to my taste as well. I loved the way he would describe the speech of the ghosts of Stormhold. They would speak and their voices would be like a gale of wind or the crackling fire or like a bird chirping in the night, or someat like that.
However, sadly, there were a few things that spoilt this otherwise enjoyable flow - a crudely written sex scene that looked odd and out of place in the rest of the story and setting, and a rather gross and graphic account of the decapitation of an animal. Besides this there were words like 'piss' (please pardon me) that were interspersed here and there that jarred so sharply with the rest of the book. What I mean, is that, the story takes place in the Victorian era, and Gaiman attempts to capture the mood, atmosphere, culture and language of the times within its fairytale setting. So, when suddenly, very modern day language pops out at you from the pages it sticks out like a huge sore. Personally, I think, had it not been for the afore mentioned drawbacks, this would have been a lovely fairy tale for children written by a comtemporary. Having browsed through some sites, I learnt that Gaiman had intended this to be a fantasy for adults. Unfortunately, the only thing that could make this book 'adult' is the sex and violence added in and it does absolutely nothing for the story!
My copy of Stardust has a brief interview with Neil Gaiman in which he says: I loved my unicorn; I was very, very fond of that unicorn, and I was sorry that it died. But on the other hand it seemed at the time a really interesting way to try and remind people that this wasn't necessarily a fairy tale for children. That and having one rude word in incredibly small type.
I'm not sure how many parents would let their young children read this book because of the 'reminder'. For me, the book then seems to be like the proverbial cat on the Wall, being neither for children nor for adults and failing as a book for both.
As far as the story goes - I like it for its own merits, but when compared to the movie version, I thought it rather tame. Of the two, I definitely prefer the movie that is a lot more adventurous and wholesome. However, the book has the more realistic ending which I prefer.