cover image Stardust


Neil Gaiman. William Morrow & Company, $22 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97728-4

Wallace Stevens believed that in order to see the actual world, it helps to visualize a fantastic one. For more than a decade, Gaiman has been helping readers grapple with reality by offering fantastic worlds in visionary graphic novels like The Sandman, occasional short stories and his bestselling first prose novel, Neverwhere. Here, Gaiman extends his range by offering a novel-length fairy tale, one that abounds in wonder and lessons. The story begins in the Victorian-era English village of Wall, a place that touches the world of Faerie. There, every nine years, a fair is held where the magic folk commingle, occasionally in intimate ways, with those who live in the mundane world. From such a union is born Tristan Thorn. Raised without knowledge of his fairy blood, Tristan falls in love with a local beauty, Victoria Forester. When a star falls from the sky, a disdainful Victoria promises Tristan his heart's desire if he will bring her that star. Tristan sets out on his quest, entering the realm of Faerie, and soon encounters a variety of fantastical denizens, both good and evil. Tristan is not the sole seeker of the star; a powerful witch-queen and the dark Lords of Stronghold also have their designs upon the fallen celestial body. This novel is at once a magical adventure, a charming love story and a fable about attaining one's heart's desire--which, in Gaiman's world, is seldom what one thinks it to be. Grounding his narrative in mythic tradition, Gaiman employs exquisitely rich language, natural wisdom, good humor and a dash of darkness to conjure up a fairy tale in the grand tradition. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Jan.)