There was no moonlight between the trees, but the unicorn glimmered and shone with pale light, like the moon, while the girl herself glittered and glowed as she trailed a dust of lights, and, passing through the trees, it might have seemed to a distant observer that she seemed to twinkle, on and off and off and on, like a tiny star.
I saw the movie version of Stardust years ago and really loved it so I had to include the novel when I did my little three-book Gaiman marathon. It’s a really wonderful book. It feels like I keep saying the same thing over and over about Gaiman, but it’s just the truth: his most amazing strength is his world-building and his ability to keep surprising you with what’s around the next corner. Anyway, in this little fairytale, Tristran Thorn leaps over a mysterious stone wall in order to find a fallen star and when he leaps over that wall, we’re plunged into a delightful, creepy, whimsical, dangerous world filled with witches and unicorns and flying ships. And it seems that Tristran isn’t the only one after that fallen star. This really is a magnificent book, just a pure pleasure; there are only a couple of dull bits. The book moves quite quickly and surprisingly. There are wonderful scenes, like a showdown in a mysterious inn, between three star searchers, that are just wonderfully written, high energy and loads of violent fun. If you can find it, definitely get the original version which features Charles Vess’ astonishing illustrations. Some of them are just breath-taking; a full two-page spread of a lion attacking a unicorn is my favorite, but there are others, like a surprisingly gruesome murder in that mysterious inn. Anyway, Gaiman just really has a flair for this kind of thing and this is a delightful journey into an ever-surprising world for a rip-roaring adventure. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Gaiman’s amazing world-building and plotting are joined by Vess’ beautiful illustrations to create an exciting, surprising, violent and whimsical fairy tale. 4 stars.