Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Published by Headline
19th September 2005
In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall. Young Tristan Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is cold and distant as the star she and Tristan see fall from the sky one evening. For the prize of Victoria's hand, Tristan vows to retrieve the star for his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town's ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imaginating...
There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire.
And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was as much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although he never knew the whole of it.
The tale started, as many tales have started, in Wall.
The town of Wall stands today as it has stood for six hundred years, out on a high jut of granite amidst a small forest woodland. The houses of Wall are square and old, built of grey stone, with dark slate roofs and high chimneys; taking advantage of every inch of space on the rock, the houses lean into each other, are built one upon the next, with here and there a bush or tree growing out of the side of a building.
There is one road from Wall, a winding track rising sharply up from the forest, where it is lined with rocks and small stones. Followed far enough south, out of the forest, the track becomes a real road, paved with asphalt; followed further the road gets larger, is packed at all hours with cars and lorries rushing from city to city. Eventually the road takes you to London, but London is a whole night's drive from Wall.
The inhabitants of Wall are a taciturn breed, falling into two distinct types: the native Wall-folk, as grey and tall and stocky as the granite outcrop their town was built upon; and the others, who have made Wall their home over the years, and their descendants.
This is the second book by Neil Gaiman that I've read, following on from the delight that is The Ocean at the end of the Lane (my review is here) and it was recommended by a friend after I posted how much I loved that book. It's fair to say, that I adore this one too. It's also a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer but, even though I know it's been on tv hundreds of times, I've never watched it. I don't know why, but I haven't, and now, when it's not scheduled, I need to see it!
Stardust is set in the town of Wall. A strange town in that it is surrounded by a wall, in which there is a gap leading out to a meadow beyond. Guards stand at the gap preventing folk from getting both in and out of the town, except for one day every nine years, May Day, when a fair comes to the meadow.
A whole host of characters are immersed into Gaiman's grown-up fairy tale; and I don't mean dark fairy tale like those conjured up by Angela Carter, but magical fairy tales like we read when we were small, with fairies and wizards, and true magical love.
As when I reviewed Ocean, I can't say too much about the story itself, you just have to read it to be swept up into the town of Wall, it's inhabitants and beyond. It's magic, pure and simple.
I need to go and devour the back catalogue.
Miss Chapter x