“Another little pocket of stardust”, New Straits Times, 29 April 2001.
STARDUST By Neil Gaiman Spike Fiction RM33.90, pp336
MOST of you may have already heard of Neil Gaiman (author of the award-winning graphic novel series The Sandman), although you have possibly not had the impetus to go out and get one of his pockets of magic.
Well now, there comes another opportunity in the form of Stardust. A paperback version of the original collaborative efforts between his genius in story-telling and Charles Vess beautifully painted illustrations.
Although Vess’ exquisite interpretation is not present in this version, the enchantment is accentuated through Gaiman’s mastery of words which has the ability to propel the powers of imagination beyond its limits.
The tale begins in Wall, a secluded English village where the inhabitants and houses root closely to its topological features of rock, fields and tempestuous weather.
To the east of the village, there is a high stone wall with a gap that is guarded constantly by two villagers to prevent entry or exit, and beyond the wall, there is a forest where odd shapes and glimmering things can sometimes be seen flitting amongst the trees.
Once every nine years, the guards are relaxed for a fair on the meadow before the forest where new eyes, bottled dreams, storm-filled eggshells and other wonders are traded.
It is on one of these fairs that Dunstan Thorn was given the gift of attaining his heart’s desire, and this gift was to extend to his first-born child and beyond. Consequently, Tristran Thorn was conceived. He grows up, conscious of his difference to his sister Louisa, and makes an oath of love to beautiful Victoria Forrester to retrieve a fallen star.
Thus begins his adventures beyond the wall to the realm of Faerie where goodness has a hairy voice, and evil wears a mask of benevolence (and a red dress).
His journey in this mystical land will keep you turning the pages as fast as you can, whilst he and the star escape powerful ancient witches, deadly clutching trees, and the devious sons of the dead Lord of the Stormhold.
The story is crafted with down-to-earth elements entwined comfortably around magic, and is in turn dark, whimsical, ghastly and very funny.
Gaiman skilfully blends rich folklore, comic romance and traditional tales with distinctive wit, narrative energy and a true sense of historical knowledge.
Definitely a book to curl up with when you have a long lazy afternoon, and a desire to escape from the dustiness of 3 p.m. meetings.
If you plan to read this out loud to children, which it is entirely perfect for, watch out for a couple of sexy spicy moments.