|Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess|
|Vertigo/DC Comics, 224 pages|
|Avon Books, 238 pages|
A review by Alice Dechene
Dunstan Thorn, a rather simple fellow, unknowingly is granted his Heart's Desire as payment for three days of lodging by a visitor to the Faerie Market. While Dunstan's Desire is fulfilled easily enough, that of his first-born (for of course being magical this rent payment has to go on a long time) balloons into quite the magical quest. A foolish promise to the beautiful Victoria Forester leads Tristran Thorn to travel Faerie in search of a Fallen Star -- the particular Star, in fact, viewed by Victoria at the particular moment of Tristran's attempt to woo her. Two other groups converge on the same quest -- witches seeking youth and brothers competing for the family stronghold -- which turns Tristran's seemingly straightforward journey into quite the perilous adventure. Through many twists and turns, all ends well, as of course fairy tales must, and as happily as real life will allow.
To me, what make this book was the interplay of Gaiman's beautiful prose and Charles Vess' stunning illustrations. The two have worked together in the past -- most recently in the pages of Vess' self-published comic, The Book of Ballads and Sagas -- but here the collaboration is really given room to breathe. The story alone is wonderful, but enhanced by the gorgeous artwork on nearly every page (175 colour paintings in total) this book becomes a treasure. As the mother of two preschoolers, I feel obligated to point out that this is an adult tale. But that was part of what made the book so alluring: someone actually bothered to illustrate a fairytale for grownups.
Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's Stardust is a lovely story in the grand tradition of Oscar Wilde and Thackeray of fairy tales for adults. Loving attention has been paid to the language, which flows beautifully, drawing the reader effortlessly into a world of Faerie made even more real by the lavish artwork. Gaiman says he penned rather than typed this manuscript, and it does have quite the old-fashioned feel without being stilted or archaic.
This is a curl-up-with-hot-cocoa, by the fireside kind of book, to be savoured on a blustery night. I certainly did.
Alice taught Comparative Literature and French at the University of Illinois. Her time is taken up these days with her two children, and the preparations for her third. She misses school, but reading and fairy tales help.
A review by Neil Walsh|
Victoria believes she is making it clear to Tristran that he hasn't got the faintest hope with her, but Tristran (responding to subtlety in truly masculine fashion) takes her at her word and wanders off to find the star. The only thing is, the star has fallen on the other side of the wall for which the town of Wall is named. And beyond the gap in this wall lies the Realm of Faerie...
Tristran is an endearingly stoic character who takes everything in stride, even the wonders and the horrors of Faerie. His adventures are quite strange, charming, entertaining, frightening and amusing. This is a fairy tale for adults -- a genre which Gaiman is particularly adept at writing -- and a delightful foray into the sense of wonder that fairy tales evoked when we were young.
It's also a book that has technically seen 3 previous editions. It was first published in 1997-98 as a 4-part DC Comics series, illustrated by Charles Vess. The series was then collected in hardcover by DC in November 1998, with all of Charles Vess' colour illustrations. In August 1998, it saw a limited "publicity edition" published by Avon in a handsome slipcase, as noted on the copyright page of the current edition. The Avon/Spike hardcover is the first wider market release, and the first one without Vess' illustrations. It's also the first book from Avon's new Spike imprint.
The lack of the Charles Vess illustrations in this edition may be a sad loss, but it cannot diminish the quality of the writing. Stardust is still a joyful reminder to adults of the magic and adventure it once was to be a child.
Neil Walsh is a Canadian currently living in London, England. He speaks fluent Canadian and is learning English.
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