I so wanted to love ‘Stardust’. Really and truly. It’s one of my favourite films that I could watch over and over without getting bored, and I honestly imagined that if I loved the film that much, the book would be stunning.
I was wrong.
It made me so sad. I kept trying to fall into the magic, but I failed, staying firmly grounded in reality (which is saying something when I read most of it on an aeroplane), feeling distinctly like I was reading an extended synopsis rather than a book. Besides which, I was distinctly uncomfortable at the blend of fairytale with explicit language and references – in fact, it wasn’t so much a blend as a clash, a road accident that just left me gawping at the side of the road rather than experiencing a new take on an old genre.
Tristran (what a name to try and say, no wonder they missed the second ‘r’ in the film casting) was a hero I couldn’t believe in. Ok, let me backtrack – he’s not supposed to be a hero, a knight in shining armour, just a boy on a silly quest that becomes something significantly more. But even with this amendment, I didn’t believe in his growth. And to his credit, Gaiman didn’t have this boy settle to the throne readily – he took the time to learn who he was and live before settling into who he had become.
I never quite believed in his relationship with Yvain either. I suppose it was meant to read as though they just fell into it as lovers do, but it seemed more shoe-horned in that anything, Yvain not seeming interested in Tristran until the very last moment when ends needed to be wrapped up and the damsel needed saving.
I clearly went in with false expectations and paid the price for this. There are very, very few instances where the book has failed to outdo the film in my limited experience, but this is one of those times where the fantasy of ‘Stardust’ didn’t so much sparkle as fall to the ground without a trace.