Stardust Read-Along, Part One

Welcome to the Stardust Read-Along!  As part of Once Upon a Time, we’re reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, a lovely semi-fairy tale about Tristran, who sets out across the Wall into the land of Faerie, searching for a fallen star…who turns out to be a girl, one who is very unhappy about having fallen out of the sky!

Carl sent around a number of great questions, and I’ve chosen several to discuss.

We have spent a little time with Tristran and even less time with the star.  What are your initial thoughts/impressions of our two protagonists?

I forgot how fiery (hee!) she is–and I love it!  But I had also forgotten how unfeeling Tristran is.  The star tells him she’s sitting there with a broken leg, and he does nothing at all until the next morning.  Really?  Not feeling all that fond of Tristran at the moment.  I can forgive him his infatuation with the annoying village girl, and I enjoy a nice, inept trying-to-be-hero type, but his lack of empathy is bothering me.  But at least he feels bad about it…so I trust he’s going to grow.

In Chapter Three, just after the section with the brothers in Stormhold, Neil Gaiman gives us a description of Faerie that includes “each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there…”.  What imaginary lands do you then hope are a part of Faerie?

I loved this quote.  I flagged it when I came to it, and jotted it in my book of quotes.  I suppose I want all the obvious places to be there–Neverland and Wonderland and Oz, Atlantis and Tortall and Middle Earth, and Florin and Guilder, and the countries in Ella Enchanted whose names are escaping me…

We do not get to spend a great deal of time in the market but while there we are given a number of interesting descriptions of the wares being bartered or sold.  Which if any of them caught your eye, either as items you would like to possess or ones you would most certainly hope to avoid.

I think any time you’re in a fairy market, you have to be very, very careful about what they’re asking you to pay!  Mostly I wanted to comment how it reminds me of the market in Neverwhere as well.  It’s like this is a more rural version!

I suspect Neil Gaiman is influenced by a number of fairy and folk tales in Stardust.  Are there any elements of the story that made a particular impression and/or reminded you of other fairy stories you have read or are familiar with?

Stardust mostly strikes me as a book that has an air of fairy tale about it, rather than being any particular retelling.  A set of seven princes, a girl imprisoned by a witch, the hero on the quest…all very fairy-tale-ish.  And I love the Babylon Candle element.  I swear I thought up a magic spell involving the “How many miles to Babylon?” song for a story before I ever even read this book.

The first chapter especially feels so very fairy tale-like.  With possible tweaks to the very last page, it could almost exist as an entirely independent story, and make a lovely fairy tale.

That’s possibly my favorite part so far…so maybe we’ll just end there!  I look forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts about the book. 🙂

About cherylmahoney

I'm a book review blogger and Fantasy writer. I have published three novels, The Wanderers; The Storyteller and Her Sisters; and The People the Fairies Forget. All can be found on Amazon as an ebook and paperback. In my day job, I'm the Marketing Specialist for Yolo Hospice. Find me on Twitter (@MarvelousTales) and GoodReads (MarvelousTales).
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11 Responses to Stardust Read-Along, Part One

  1. All this talk of Neverwhere is really whetting my appetite for the story…and none more so than the discussion of another market in it! I’m so curious…

  2. The Princess Bride reference is great! I too of course would want to find elements of Middle-earth there. It is interesting in thinking of the market and wondering if it the floating market in Neverwhere would just be the progeny of this market, with ancestors passing it down through generations to the people who later inhabit London Below.

    Poor Tristran. I think it is easy to forget just how self-involved and truly dolt-ish and naive everyone is as a teenager. It is experience, sometimes bad experiences, that cause us to start having empathy for others. I don’t read as much into the broken leg thing. Yes, he was very self-obsessed when she mentions it but then first thing that morning he sets about making a crutch and helping her. For his own ends, to be sure, but then that is the point of the story to this point.

    Tristran is very much treating the star as an object, as is mentioned above, and really I would build from there and say that is often how young love is treated too. Certainly Victoria is also just an object to him, there is no *real* affection there, just infatuation.

    Can’t wait to discuss the last half of this book.

    • I love the comparison between the Star and Victoria–great observation that Tristran is really treating both of them as objects. In different ways, of course, but he clearly doesn’t have any insight into either of them!

      I like the idea that London Below’s market is the eventual descendant of the one at the wall. 🙂

  3. suecccp says:

    You’re so right! I hadn’t really realized how totally insensitive he is to her pain: it’s as if he is treating her like a non-person at the moment, which is rather strange.

    Sorry, but I have to do this . . . Florin and Guilder? Inconceivable! 😀

    I agree with you about the familiarity of so many of the tropes and yet it is all given a freshness because we have not read that exact thing before. I love the way that Mr Gaiman can do this.

  4. TBM says:

    The market is more like the rural version of the market in Neverwhere. That’s a good way of putting it.

  5. Amanda says:

    Thanks for commenting on my read-along questions. I know, magical books would be awesome. I love your Princess Bride reference. I never thought of that but how awesome would that be? I also agree that I think Tristran is acting like an unfeeling dolt. I also hated how he was so naive to believe unchained she would just sit there with a broken leg and wait for him to come back from the village.

    • Seriously…you’d think he’d expect her to run off when he unchains her. Well, not literally run, but she IS sitting on the back of a unicorn. And she’s given every sign of being strong-willed and independent! Well…I suppose that’s why he needs to quest through Faerie, to learn something along the way!

  6. nrlymrtl says:

    That’s great that you thought of Florin and Guilder from Princess Bride – another great book.

    Even though I have read this book more than once, I am always surprised at Tristran’s lack of caring for the damaged star. He really is thinking of her as an object, even though it is obvious she is a free-thinking being in distress.

    • Ah, someone got the Princess Bride reference! 🙂

      I love your observation that Tristran is treating the star as an object. It’s like he’s still locked into his idea that a star would be a hunk of crystal or something similar, despite very obvious evidence to the contrary!

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