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Review: Stardust

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

2/5 stars

First of all, I'm not tagging this as YA fiction. Gaiman didn't initially write it to be YA anyway, but I'm baffled that I keep seeing in the YA section on libraries, also that it won a Young Adult Library Services Assoc. (YALSA) award honoring "adult books with special appeal to teens." But then... also maybe I just don't understand what teens read?! I mean, as a teenager I was not reading anything that had an intimate description of two teenagers having sex. But maybe that's the norm for YA fiction these days? I dunno. I feel like an old, prudish fuddy duddy! I mean, not if it's for adults. But since I saw it marketed as YA, I went into it with that expectation. And the writing in this one did feel "younger." Guess I should know better when it comes to genre-bending Neil Gaiman, though.

How I'm feeling right now:

ANYway, oh man, I'm sad I didn't like this book more. I thought it would be right up my alley. The story begins in the town of Wall, named so because of the long stone wall that separates the town from the land of Faerie. The gap in the wall is guarded 24/7 to make sure no one stumbles across, but once every nine years the gateway is opened, and the villagers cross into Faerie for a market full of magical wonders. At one such market, a Wall boy meets a Faerie girl, and they make a baby... Years later, Tristran Thorn is a young man himself, living in Wall and falling in love with a girl who refuses a kiss. The two see a shooting star fall to the ground in Faerie, and Tristran vows to find it and bring it back for her. Thus begins his adventure into the land of Faerie, where he meets all kinds of oddball creatures, including the star herself, and, finally, his Faerie mother.

It's a fairy tale, an adventure, and ostensibly a romance - though to me it just looked like shallow infatuation leading to sex, which isn't the same thing. Similarly, I found the character development to be almost nonexistent, so while the "romance" felt undeserved and hollow, so did the characters. (There are characters that serve no purpose - the seven brothers of Stormhold, as just one example, just sort of exist in order to die.) The plot wasn't much better. Somehow simplistic while at the same time being too detailed in weird places.

And, unlike other Gaiman works, this book felt decidedly misogynistic. Injured woman captured by man, attempts escape only to be recaptured, and fall in love with him. Man watches woman undress multiple times without her knowledge. Despite a woman being a far superior choice as a leader, male hero is anointed ruler because of male-line succession. Blech.

I gave this 2 stars (instead of only 1) because Neil Gaiman is a really good writer, so his prose sometimes roped me into caring even when the storyline and characters couldn't. *shrug* Gaiman is hit or miss for me (loved Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, thought Neverwhere was just "fine," couldn't get through American Gods), so there we have it. This one is not for me. Though from what I gather, people who love this book hated the movie, and people who hate this book loved the movie, so I should probably give the movie a try!


UP NEXT: Redemptor (Raybearer Book #2), by Jordan Ifueko

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