Sometimes i get DVDs in the mail from Blockbuster which puzzle me as to why i ever placed them in my queue to begin with, but i figure that there must have been a reason, so i go ahead and watch them. This happens with books that come into the library for me from my hold list as well. Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel Stardust was one such book. Now what's a girl to do when such an event occurs but to read the book, even if nothing about it sounds familiar~because there must have been a very good reason~right? Right (didn't even notice until after i had read it that the movie is about to be released~maybe that's why someone mentioned it to me~so i'm completely unaware of things~i've noticed that even more so now that i spend less time in the car commuting, now that i have that LOVERLY five minute commute, and am kept busy enough at the desk not to cruise the internet headlines~and i refuse to watch the local news...) Now i must admit, this is my fist Neil Gaiman novel (or so i believe, my faith in my own memory is not the strongest of late...i'm not even sure if that's a shameful admission or not...)
Go, and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me, me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the Devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging
Serves to advance an honest mind.
If thou be’est born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and night
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st wilt tell me
All strange wonders that befell thee
Lives a woman true, and fair.
If thou find’st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet,
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet
Though she were true when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
~John Donne, 1572-1631
Sometimes we might not know what our True Heart's Desire is until we get it. Sometimes we may think we know what it is only to find out we are mistaken once we have journeyed to seek it out. If there is a moral in that i'm not sure what it is (is there always a moral to be found in life?). This story starts out in the English village of Wall (so named for the Wall that separates it from the rather mysterious meadowland that no one is allowed to venture~well VERY occasionally they are allowed through but they are given a VERY stern warning AND there is the market that is held every nine years in the spring, and it is actually not all that much of a mystery because on the other side of the wall lies the land of Faerie, and there i go with my parenthetical run-on sentences again, oh well...)
A question like "How big is Faerie?" does not admit of a simple answer.
Faerie, after all, is not one land, one principality or dominion. Maps of Faerie are unreliable, and may not be depended upon.
We talk of the kings and queens of Faerie as we would speak of the kings and queens of England but Faerie is bigger than England, as it is bigger than the world (for, since the dawn of time, each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn't there has taken refuge in Faerie; so it is now, by the time that we come to write of it, a most huge place indeed, containing every manner of landscape and terrain. Here, truly, there be Dragons. Also gryphons, wyverns, hippogriffs, basilisks, and hydras. There are all manner of more familiar animals as well, cats affectionate and aloof, dogs noble and cowardly, wolves and foxes, eagles and bears.
This might give you some idea of the type of the of world you have stumbled into, in other words, a typical fairy tale, with the typical fairy tale fare, but told with a great deal more wit (if i may so declare.) Gaiman follows all the rules of good fairy tale telling, but with a modern twist and humour (tho the story is set at the turn of the nineteenth century).
Tristran Thorn has promised the beautiful Victoria Forester, the girl he (and everyone else) is incurable in love with, that he will retrieve the star she saw fall to the ground in the East (in the land of Faerie) for her, and she has, in return, promised she will do whatever he asks when he delivers it to her. So off he ventures into lands unknown (also unknown to him that his birthmother was from Faerie) to seek his fortune and his manhood.
Tristran is not the only one seeking the star (of course not, for what kind of story would that make?) We also have one of a trio of very wicked witches and a trio of brothers who are seeking the star to retrieve a jewel their father tossed into the air right before his death to determine who would inherit his kingdom of Stormhold (atop the highest peak in Faerie). Tristran encounters many characters along the way; helpful, hindering, and in-between, but all very colorful; as well as the feisty star, herself. Although perhaps predictable this is a wonderful fairy tale for adults and i don't think i'm giving much away if i tell you all ends somewhat happily~though with a healthy dose of gore and mild sex for all to enjoy.
This is a fast-paced, enjoyable story that could easily be read in an evening and leave one feeling satisfied. Makes for a nice little interlude spaced between more demanding fare (or if there is something you are trying to avoid, perhaps you/me are in denial about something...)