A Philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really… “Do the stars gaze back?” Now that’s a question.
Good Omens was the first book that I read which was written, in this case partially, by Neil Gaiman. After reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, my love for Good Omens turned into my love for Neil Gaiman. Smitten by Gaiman, I did not need a reason to read Stardust, but Susanna Clark did one heck of a job of adding fuel to the fire.
“There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.”
We all have something, or many things, that our heart desires. With the very first sentence, Gaiman aroused my curiosity. I wanted to know about the young man, I wanted to know about his heart’s desire and I wanted to be a part of his journey to get it.
The first chapter introduced me to the time and place where the story takes place, telling me about the Wall, the Wall, which is the village named after the wall, and Faerie which is beyond the Wall. I met Dunstan Thorn and the other villagers and also the people from the Faerie. I got to know about the fair that is held every nine years, I heard about the gap in the wall, and I learnt how diligently the villagers guarded it.
Unlike most novels that I have read, the protagonist is only introduced in the second chapter. I also met Yvaine, the fallen star whom Tristran Thorn, the hero wants to bring for his love, Victoria Forrester. Honestly, Tristran is not much of a gentleman when the story starts out and I didn’t like him. But as another character in the story put it, “You are young, and in love. Every young man in your position is the most miserable young man who ever lived.”
In a captivating story not only should there be a hero and a heroine, but also some conflict to be resolved, some enemies to be defeated, and some secrets to be unearthed. In Stardust, we have the Lilim, Primus, and Septimus who are also in search of the fallen star for their own different motives, at least one of which is fatal to the star. It is upto our hero to keep the star safe and also to learn to be a proper gentleman along the way. There are also a plethora of other characters who help the main characters. Two of the most inspiring characters in the novel were the little hairy man and the Tree, both of whom impart words of wisdom to Tristran, which fortunately he heeds. If I were to choose a favourite character, I would choose the little hairy man without a second’s delay.
The story proceeds at a fast pace and it is difficult to put the book aside. When I had to put the book away to carry on with my normal boring everyday life, all I could think of was Stardust. Sometimes when in novels the narrative shifts from one thread of the story to another, it is abrupt and puts me off. In Stardust, the transitions between Tristran, Yviane, Lilim, Primus and Septimus was as smooth as a hot knife on butter (pardon the cliché). I was eager to know about each of these threads and felt such a happiness, the kind that makes your chest expand and makes you feel as if it would burst open, when the threads came together beautifully to weave the story resolving the conflict. I loved how nursery rhymes were included as plot points in the story and the way Gaiman’s prose reads like poetry.
From the very first sentence to the last sentence, I was immersed in the story. It let my imagination run wild and aroused in me a childlike curiosity. It felt as if I was among a group of children, sitting around an open fire as twilight gives way to night, listening to the story told by an old man with a long silver beard and a booming voice.
“Go, and catch a falling star…”