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September 10, 2007 | by  | in Books |
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Stardust

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust was originally published in a hardcover format, with illustrations beautifully rendered by Charles Vess. Now that it has been made into a film, (starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer), illustrations are obviously considered superfluous, and Hardline Review has reissued it as a paperback.

In prose that whirls back and forth between tongue-in-cheek anachronism and Gaiman’s humorously gritty signature style, Stardust is a love story set in the land of faerie, where shooting stars are beautiful maidens, cackling witches roam, and trees speak to (and in some cases, eat) passing travelers.

Riffing on the ‘boy meets beautiful maiden, goes a’ questing to win said maiden’s love, adventures ensue and characters learn valuable life lesson’ theme, Gaiman playfully subverts the modern conception of fairy stories and who they are aimed at. While today usually considered the domain of children, the origins of fairy tales in the folk stories collected by authors such as the Grimm brothers are often decidedly more risqué, if not downright lascivious, and Gaiman pays homage to his sources with restrained dose of sex, violence, and obscenity.

A debt is also owed (and acknowledged) to writers such as Phillip Pullman and Diana Wynne-Jones: at times I was almost expecting Wizard Howl to gatecrash the party in his magical moving castle, but to be fair, every fairytale is an amalgam of previous stories, and there is no reason a modern one should be any different. And the good points of the novel: the humorously retro, mock-Victorian delivery, inventive characters and the pure enjoyment to be found in the text, with its winks at Gaiman’s friends, (the inclusion of Tori Amos as the friendly tree for example) more than make up for the occasional feeling that I’d heard it all before.

No doubt Stardust will be undeservedly overshadowed by the nauseous Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this year, but Gaiman’s world of faerie will exist long after the Rowling Empire has crumbled and been forgotten by the media machine that created it.

NEIL GAIMAN

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