Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stardust by Neil Gaiman Read Along: Week 2

If you haven't read the book already, why not? You can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at Stainless Steel Droppings.

This week we read through to the end of the book.

1.  In the first part we saw a naive, wool-headed and self-involved Tristran.  What are your thoughts about Tristran and his personal journey now that the book has ended?

Tristran is still not your typical swaggering hero but he has matured rather well and become quite sensitive along the way. I was particularly impressed by the way that he handled Victoria’s announcement about Mr Monday, and I was surprised by her sensitivity about broaching the matter. I liked the way that we were shown the passage of a sensible amount of time within which Tristran and Yvaine could learn about one another and develop a relationship built upon understanding and trust rather than instalove. I get the impression that he became a true hero during their period of wandering, but I appreciate that this was only hinted at rather than laid out in detail.

2.  The star, who we now know as Yvaine, also experienced a transformation of her own.  So I ask the same question, what are your thoughts about Yvaine and the journey she took?

Yvaine’s story is so very bitter-sweet. She is separated from her mother and sisters forever and yet she finds love with Tristran, a mortal who will eventually die and leave her behind. I was very touched by her determination to do whatever it took to make Tristran happy, even if it meant being turned into a lump of rock by passing through the wall. I appreciated her staying quiet about her own feelings until he had worked out how he truly felt about Victoria. It was so nice to have a calm heroine who did not allow her emotions to splash all over the place and turn the story into a melodrama.

3.  The villains of the story came to interesting ends, but not necessarily expected ones.  How do you feel about Neil Gaiman's handling of the Stormhold brothers (who had remained at the end of Part 1) and the two witches, the one Lilim and Ditchwater Sal?

In the end, I actually felt quite sorry for the brothers and I was left wondering how their family had survived so long. Primus seemed like a decent enough chap and was certainly quite fair to Tristran. While Septimus was certainly overconfident in his own abilities, I did not get the impression that he was a danger to anyone else and would have simply taken the topaz from Yvaine. In the end they were not really villains at all, just the products of a truly bizarre family ritual.

I was surprised by the way in which the Lilim was dealt with. Again, I was left with a feeling of sadness at this woman who was in a much worse situation now than she had been at the beginning. I dread to think what her ‘sisters’ will put her through when she returns to them. I love the way that Mr Gaiman can write such three-dimensional villains.

As for Sal: she got what she deserved. Perhaps, in future, she will consider paying people to work for her rather than enslaving them.

4.  Were there any descriptions, characters, settings, plot threads that stood out to you personally during this second half of the book?

I think the thing that stood out for me most was the talking copper beach tree. I loved the idea that it was sentient, but transformed, and could still communicate when it was awakened. I have a bit of a thing for trees because they are such majestic and timeless individuals . . . sorry, that was my inner biology geek speaking there! :)

5.  At the very end of the book we see that Tristran and Yvaine's relationship and fate echoes that of Aragorn and Arwen from The Lord of the Rings.  If this question makes any sense to you (lol), what comparisons and/or contrasts do you see, especially in the fates of Yvaine and Arwen?

There is certainly a great deal of similarity, with Yvaine separated from all the others of her kind and then left alone by the death of her husband. However, Arwen had things a little easier because she had children with Aragorn and there were also a few other elves who remained behind for a time, such as Legolas. This makes it even more interesting that Arwen chose to die and follow Aragorn, whereas Yvaine remains alone forever.

6.   What are your overall impressions of the story now that it is done?

As always, Mr Gaiman has taken us on an entertaining journey through a land that seems familiar, and yet he has led us to an unexpected ending place and shown us sights that we would never have predicted. Within the context of a fairy tale I was surprised by the way that brute strength was never really important, nor did Tristran have any magical quality that won the day. He simply plodded along and did the best that he could with the minimum of fuss and the only magic he worked was to capture the heart of a star . . . and he did that without realizing it!

7.  If Gaiman were to return to Wall/Faerie, would you take another journey there?  If so, are there any adventures hinted at in Stardust that you would like to see Neil expand on?

Absolutley! I would like to know much more about the Fellowship and find out why they were watching over Tristran. I would also like to follow Tristran and Yvaine in their wanderings around Faerie and see him become a real, swash-buckling hero.


  1. It's so funny how different people can read the same book so differently! You liked that Tristran's transformation was only hinted at...and that enormously frustrated me! I do agree that I'm glad Tristran and Yvaine had some time to fall in love. "Instalove" stories usually annoy me. I wish there had been more detail on that part of the story, though...

    1. It is a fine line between too many and not enough when it comes to details in a story. I enjoy Mr Gaiman's economy, but I would not have been averse to more detail, as long as it was entertaining and relevant.

  2. I like the way Gaiman handles Victoria, showing us that in the end she is not a bad, shallow person but that she actually has some depth and dimension and that she is willing to honor her promises. I also like how Tristran handles this whole situation allowing everyone to get what they want with dignity.

    I hadn't thought about the lack of melodrama until you mentioned it, but YES, you are so right and I'm with you all the way. Maybe one of the reasons I find this story so beautiful and refreshing is the lack of "drama".

    You point out, accurately so, that for the most part there is a shred of something decent in the villains. Not much and certainly not anything that would necessarily make them redeemable, but there is something in them that makes you happy that a few of them remained standing at the end, mercifully tamed and no future danger to our hero and heroine, but standing all the same.

    I had forgotten that the tree was a character based on Tori Amos. That is kind of fun and the character was a really nice one to have in the story, even for just a brief time.

    You are right in that Arwen at least had children. That is one additional sad thing that Yvaine has to deal with in her life and I imagine that this weighed on her after Tristran passed.

    Tristran, and really Yvaine's, "normal" status is what I like too. No magic powers, no sudden superpowers. Just two regular, if slightly enchanted, humans facing life head on.

    1. I was rather surprised by Victoria's behavior when Tristran returned to Wall, but I agree with you in that I was impressed by it. It was good to see that she was another character who had grown and matured during the story rather than just doing what was necessary to get the story moving. This seems to be a common element to most of Mr Gaiman's characters and I love the way that even his villains are 'real' people and have an existence separate from the main story. It makes the world so much more interesting and believable, which is amazing considering the more fantastical elements that he weaves into his stories.

      If you haven't already noticed, I think that you have made me into a real Gaiman fan . . . such a pity that I trying to read more books written by female authors! :D

    2. Well, I guess the good news (unless you want more Gaiman books) is that he is no longer the prolific writer he once was, at least not of novels, and that his list of works is not incredibly long. :)

  3. I love the mental image of Ditchwater Sal having to scrub her own chamber pot because she can't find anyone who is willing to work for her.

    It made for an interesting fairy tale because neither of the main characters used magic or brute strength to win a kingdom (which wasn't the goal, but a nice perk of staying alive).

    I like your inner bio geek. Ancient trees are awesome.

    1. Ancient trees are so totally awesome: I agree! :)

      My own lack of physical prowess means that I am always very happy to read a story where the resolution comes without a display of muscles or 'specialness'. in many ways, Tristran and Yvaine are saved by their behavior and emotions, which is so wonderfully ordinary that anyone can aspire to mimic them.


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