Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Charles Vess
Published by DC/Vertigo
Contents: Collects all four installments of the initial graphic novels
My advice: Own it.
Whether you're a fan of Gaiman's Sandman series and other graphic works or more of his novels, you'll appreciate Stardust. But first, a bit of clarification: Gaiman also has published a novel under the same name, which is basically the same story but without the fine Vess illustrations. They are truly not to be missed, and you'll be glad you bought the graphic novel version. Faery tales, after all, should be illustrated, from childhood through adulthood.
Stardust, like many of Gaiman's works, manages to incorporate the best of comedy and tragedy at the same time. At times, it can be as dark as the worst of the Brothers Grimm's unadulterated tales. The tale takes place at the edge of Faerie, in a village called Wall, where mortals can mingle with Faerie once every nine years. It is during this festival market that Dunstan Thorn, searching for a trinket for a village beauty, enters Faerie, setting in motion a story that spans two generations and two lands, the mortal and the Fey.
The characters of Stardust are wonderful; Dunstan and his son Tristran are well-rounded, and even the characters we meet briefly seem to breathe. Villains and heroes alike have a real personality. Vess' illustrations do hard duty here giving faces to the characters. Gaiman's Faerie is not a perfect land for perfect people; the faults and strengths of each character form the destinies they and their children must endure.
The plot is vintage faery tale, but with the details and twists that are just as vintage Gaiman. Unlike many writers of modern literature, Gaiman doesn't feel the need to leave loose ends dangling and call it "experimental"; he provides a nice epilogue that adds emotional and contextual richness to the tale as a whole.
The art is dreamy and rich, just as it should be for this tale. The images are by turns as faded as an antique watercolor or as finely detailed as sculpture, whichever suits the action best, but the overall aesthetic is harmonious and beautiful. It's hard to say if the images accompany the text or if the text accompanies the art.
Fans of Gaiman's other work won't be disappointed here, nor will anyone who appreciates a good faery tale or a fantasy tale. Fans of good artwork will also enjoy Vess' work. If you're new to Gaiman or even to adult faery tales, give Stardust a try; you won't be sorry. Try reading it aloud to your friends--the heartaches and breathlessness, however, will not be my fault.
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