“Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.”
Hello and welcome to another edition of The BBRBF Book Club! Our first book of the year is Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and boy is it magical.
Here is a plot overview from Goodreads:
Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.
Prior to Stardust the only book I had ever read by Gaiman was Coraline, which I’m borderline obsessed with, therefore I had high expectations; however, upon reading the first chapter I was immediately turned off.
I would not consider myself a fan of fantasy. I don’t care for stories involving faeries or knights or grandiose quests to please one’s true love, and I generally stay away from books with dragons on the cover. Because of this bias, it was hard for me to relate to the story at the onset of the plot. Had I not continued reading, I would have missed out on an incredibly intricate, and expertly tied-together, story filled with magic and wonder.
Tristran is no ordinary boy, he is the bastard son of Dunstan Thorn and a cat-eared, violet-eyed faerie girl named Una. His father had a brief love affair with Una during the Faerie market, held every nine years, in which the inhabitants of Wall and Faerie are free to socialize and exchange goods. Nine months later, the infant Tristran is left at the border of Wall to be kept under his father’s care.
18 years later, Tristran is on the verge of manhood, enamored by the prettiest girl in the village: Victoria Forester. During an evening stroll, he and Victoria witness a star fall from the sky and she promises Tristran whatever his heart desires should he bring her the star.
The daring young lad departs from his family to venture into this foreign land which, unbeknownst to him, is actually where he originates from. Tristran finds himself mysteriously able to navigate through the deadly forest, recall virtually every location within Faerie, and feel the presence of the star in relation to wherever he stood.
Through his travels, he comes across a small hairy man (who’s name is never shared) and receives from him a gold chain by which to ensnare the fallen star and a used candle, which allows Tristran to travel great distances within a matter of minutes, as long as the wick stays lit. As he begins his trek towards the star he is unaware that there are others attempting to locate it, as well.
Deep in the woods live three ancient sisters, known collectively as the Lillim, who once ruled a kingdom of witches. Inside their hut, they formulate a plan to rip out the heart of the star in order to restore their power and beauty. Meanwhile, the dying Lord of Stormhold gathers his three living sons, and the ghosts of his four dead sons (slain by their living counterparts), around his bedside to determine who will succeed the throne. Having hurled the Power of Stormhold, a topaz which marks the owner as ruler of the land, into the sky he inadvertently knocked the star down to earth. In order to gain the throne, his remaining three sons are to plot each other’s death, and the last one standing must find the topaz.
Once Tristran reaches the star, he discovers that it is actually a girl by the name of Yvaine. Her fall from the sky has rendered her a broken leg which, in addition to her blatant disgust for Tristran, stating that she will do everything in her power to make his journey difficult, causes his trek to be even more tumultuous.
In short, Yvaine runs away on the back of a unicorn and becomes ensnared by the Lillim. Tristran and the first born son of the Lord of Stormhold, called Primus, travel together to find what they are looking for (unaware that they both seek the star). Upon finding her, the Lillim murders both Primus and the unicorn, but Tristran and Yvaine escape, becoming stranded within the clouds.
One the ground once more, they encounter a witch by the name of Madam Semele who incidentally has enslaved Tristran’s birth mother, Una, and keeps her in the form of a bird. Tristran offers to barter the glass flower his father gave him (which, unbeknownst to him, is the flower Una gave to his father) for a ride to the Faerie market. Stunned by the flower, recognizing it as one of Una’s, Madam Semele accepts his offer. The most curious thing about their travels with this witch, aside from Tristran being turned into a dormouse, is that Madam Semele never acknowledges Yvaine.
During this time Septimus, the seventh, and only living, son of the Lord of Stormhold is bound to the revenge of his brother Primus’ death before he can find the topaz and claim the throne. Having found the Lillim, he sets her house ablaze but fails in his mission and instead is slain by the same hand that killed his older brother.
Tristran and Yvaine have safely reached the border of Wall, but are denied passage into the village and are forced to stay in Faerie another night. As Tristran sleeps, Yvaine is approached by Una who explains why Madam Semele couldn’t see her and the duty she must uphold regarding the topaz tied around the star’s waist.
The next morning, Tristran believes that Victoria Forester is waiting for him at the entrance to Wall, but it turns out to be his sister. She takes him to Victoria who explains that she was foolish in promising Tristran her hand in marriage and that she was in love with someone else. But she didn’t promise to marry him, she promised him anything his heart desires and he desired that she marry her true love. Besides, he had grown quite fond of Yvaine and during their travels had forgotten the color of Victoria’s eyes.
In the end, Tristran and Yvaine fall in love and Una is not only Tristran’s birth mother, but Lady Una the only daughter of the Lord of Stormhold, which makes Tristran the rightful heir to the throne. Tristran, craving adventure, travels the lands with his wife while his mother rules the kingdom in his absence. In time, Tristran comes to rule the land with Yvaine by his side.
After his passing, Yvaine takes Tristran’s place at the throne. She never seems to age. She maintains a glow about her that others do not understand. At night, when time permits, she retires to the open tower of the castle and “says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”
I saw the film adaptation some time ago and, admittedly, didn’t make the connection while reading this book. They come across as two completely different animals, each good in their own way, but I’d take the book over the film if given a choice. Gaiman has the ability to paint an entirely fictional world in a way that makes you feel as if it could possibly exist, and tie three separate plots into one harmonious story.
My inspiration for this outfit was Lady Una’s flowers. I wanted to pay homage to the single identifying piece of glass that brought Tristran and his mother together. I paired this gorgeous 1970’s blouse from Moon Revival Vintage with the Field Notable Midi Skirt from Modcloth to create this earthy look. Additionally, I chose a location with an ethereal feel to represent the abundant magic within Faerie.
Have you read Stardust by Neil Gaiman? What did you think? Check out what the other gals in The BBRBF Book Club thought of Stardust and get a glimpse of their inspired outfits: Kristina from The Eyre Effect, Sara from In a Nutshell, Noelle from The Classy Junk and Kat from The Miss Information Blog!
Tune in next month for our review of The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter!