Book Review: Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads

#RandomRead

Publisher: Headline Review

Pages: 194

Release Date: First published in 1988

Summary (From Goodreads):

One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love.

Review:

I picked this book for Stacey as part of our Random Reads feature. I only really picked it because I wanted to read it, have been meaning to for a while, and thought this would be the good nudge along that I needed.

While as a whole I did enjoy this book, I found there was just something lacking in it for me.

I wasn’t really sure, going in, what age it was aimed at, and coming out I’m still not certain. Sometimes it read very much like a fairytale for younger readers, and then there was violence and sex which you wouldn’t really expect to find in a book for younger readers.

I struggled to get into it at first, as I just didn’t find the first few pages very gripping. It took me a while to warm up to the story, and just when I thought I was getting invested in the characters, I found they took a back seat as Tristan came into it as the main character. While this is quite common in fairy tales in general, I found here it just didn’t help me get into the story.

I loved the character of the Star: her grouchiness and snarky remarks to Tristan made me laugh and I liked how they both saved each other, rather than her being a typical damsel in distress. Their relationship grew very naturally as well, even if it was obvious what was going to happen.

There were so many tantalising bits of information dropped in that really helped to populate the Faerie realm and bring it to life. My only complaint there would be that I wanted to find more about their stories! I was especially intrigued by the squirrel searching for the Acorn of Truth.

I loved the witches and, again, wanted to find out more of their life and history than the glimpse we got. The thing that disappointed me was the climax, as I expected a little more of a showdown between the Star and the witch: the ending fell a little flat for me.

While I did enjoy this, I found it was too much like an extended, classic fairy tale. You know how when you read a Grimm tale (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately) and you get the story, you know what happened but you don’t really get a real sense of the characters? That’s how Stardust felt for me: I didn’t feel part of the story, I was very much on the outside, watching.

My Verdict:

3

You can pop over to Stacie’s blog and see her review here.

Book Review: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads
#RandomReads

893136

Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 560
Release Date: September 2005
Summary (From Goodreads):

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH
It’s a small story, about:
a girl
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.
ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
Review:

I have a bit of a history with this book, which I will be posting about in my Random Reads discussion next week. I was pleased when Stacie chose it for me to read, as it’s been so long since I first read it that I can’t really remember what I thought of it.

For anyone who doesn’t know (and hasn’t read the summary above), one of the most interesting things about this book is its narrator. Rather than being narrated by Liesel, the protagonist, her story is told through the eyes of Death, who watches Liesel and visits her three times.

This is a really different quirk and Death’s narrative voice adds a lot to the story. The book is full of rich metaphors that I think work well because they’re told from the point of view of someone who isn’t human, or seeing things like us. Death notices colours a lot and describes things in a way we probably wouldn’t.

This is a good point and a bad one in my mind, as, while sometimes I think it creates a really beautiful picture of what’s happening, other times I feel like I’m trawling through metaphor after simile after metaphor. It all got a bit much after a while, and I sometimes found myself pausing to puzzle over what a metaphor actually meant, which brought me out of the story.

The second world war setting, along with Death narration, brings something very ominous to the story. You know vaguely where it’s going to go – not in a predictable way, just in a ‘Oh no, awful things are going to happen’ kind of way. It also creates characters that you can’t help but love in that difficult position. A favourite for me is Hans, Liesel’s adoptive Papa who comforts her in her nightmares, teaches her to read and disagrees with the Nazi party, even as he tries to placate them to keep his family safe. It’s a complicated situation, one impossible to win really, but he tries so hard to do the right thing.

Liesel herself is a great protagonist – strong, smart, and ultimately flawed in a way that makes her relatable. Sometimes she says awful thing because she is unhappy, she does or doesn’t do things she regrets, and that just makes her all the more loveable.

I sometimes found the language a little jarring – often people will say something in German, and then the translation is given too, as if they said that as well. This probably annoys me because I speak German so it was like reading the same phrase/similar thing twice, but when the majority of dialogue is in English it did feel a bit odd.

The ending is a really bitter sweet one. Which is how I often say I like my endings, although this one has a lot more for the bitter and a lot less of the sweet. But there’s something about it that makes me not want to describe it as wholly sad. But you shall have to read and judge for yourself, I don’t want to spoil anything here!

This is a really beautiful book and you can see why it appeals to adults and younger readers alike, and why it is so internationally read. Reading after such a long time has been like reading it for the first time and I can safely say now it is definitely a book I enjoy, just a little heavy handed with the metaphors for me.

My Verdict:


Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Check out Stacie’s review of The Book Thief here