If you haven't read the book, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? You can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at Stainless Steel Droppings.
This week we read through to the end of Chapter 5.
1. 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?
So far Tristan has not been very ‘heroic’, poor lad. His ‘fair maiden’ is completely uninterested in him, he has no special talents apart from the ability to ‘know’ where things are and his ears are not even a matched pair. Now he has been dumped by a grumpy star and has a six-month trek ahead of him to get home, assuming that he can ever catch the star and drag her along. I do wonder how long it will be before he decides that this whole adventure was a really bad idea.
The nameless star is angry at being knocked out of the sky, which seems perfectly reasonable to me: I would be angry if it happened to me. I can also understand why she is less than happy about being tethered to some random bloke and dragged off to impress some snotty girl that he wants to impress. Adding a broken leg into this mix would give any of us a good reason to be in a bad mood.
I actually find the protagonists very entertaining and delightfully atypical. Although we are talking about a half-faery and a star, they seem so wonderfully normal that they are so much more endearing than the cookie-cutter characters that we often see in traditional fairy tales.
2. There are some very interesting potential villains introduced in this first half of the book. Do any of them particularly stand out to you? If so why or why not?
I have to assume that the main villains are the Stormhold brothers and the revitalized witch. However, the brothers seem more interested in killing each other than in retrieving the topaz that carries their father’s power so it looks like the witch will be the real villain of the piece. This ambiguity helps to keep us guessing about where the story is going and adds to the feeling that this is not your typical fairy tale.
I find the idea of breeding children just so that they can kill each other off over the years a little wasteful, but it is certainly entertaining to see their paranoia in action. Was I the only one who expected the brothers to push each other out of the window in their father’s bedroom?
3. 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 would love to visit Conan Doyle’s Lost World, but any other place with living dinosaurs would keep me entertained for a very long time. I quite like the idea of seeing dragons as well, though the fire-breathing type might be difficult to observe safely.
4. 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 am intrigued by the crystal flowers that Ditchwater Sal sells. They sound very beautiful, but I have to assume that they have some magical purpose as well because Tristan’s snowdrop has been highlighted in the story so far.
Snowdrops are one of the flowers that I miss most now that I live in the US: Maine is not a good place to grow them, unfortunately.
5. If you have read much of Gaiman's work, particularly his short fiction, then you have come across some rather graphic and disturbing portrayals of sex. Gaiman offers up something very different in the way of a sex scene early on in Stardust. What are your feelings of the scene either in general or as a contrast to other Gaiman-penned scenes involving sex?
I have not read any of Mr Gaiman’s other sex scenes, so I cannot comment on how this one compares to them. However, I was rather surprised to find the scene described quite so graphically, considering that the copy that I am reading is published by Harper Teen. I found that it took me out of the story a little as it seemed a little at odds with the fairy tale tone of the writing.
6. 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?
I will be very interested to see what everyone else thinks about this question, as I am really struggling to think of any particular stories that he has referenced directly. However, it does feel as if he has captured the feel of those traditional tales without actually using any of them, which is impressive in itself.
7. And finally, which of the many side characters introduce have caught your eye and why? Or what else about the story thus far is of interest to you?
I really liked the little hairy man: he was an interesting character and I would have liked to have travelled with him a little further. However, I suspect that his role in the story is complete and we will not see him again.
I am intrigued by Tristan’s mother and would like to know more about her heritage and abilities. I hope that she manages to escape from her captivity eventually because I would like to know why she chose Dunstan and why she risked Sal’s wrath to have one brief night with him.