Stardust is the second novel of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve read. The other was The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Like Ocean, Stardust is a relatively short novel with reasonably long chapters that were broken up into short subsections. I saw the movie a few years back. I enjoyed the movie, so I figured I’d give the book a go. It was an easy quick read; in fact, I read the entire novel in a single day. The main character in the novel is a seventeen-year-old young man by the name of Tristran, who is hopelessly besotted with the youthful beauty Victoria. In a fit of indifference, hoping to put off Tristran and his advances, Victoria says she will give him whatever he wants, if he finds the star they both witness falling. Much to her surprise, Tristran agrees and heads out of town in pursuit. There is a catch, of course; it’s called Faerie.
Tristran and Victoria live in a town called Wall, named because it has grown up in the shadow of a long wall separating our world from the world of Faerie that lies on the other side of the wall. There is a hole in the wall, a gateway between the two worlds. Once every nine years the two worlds meet in something of a Faerie Market which is held on the Faerie side of the wall for three days. It is quite the event, and it was a liaison there between Tristran’s father and a captured Faerie woman that led to Tristran’s birth. Tristran does not yet know that he is half Faerie, but his quest to please Victoria will lead him on many revealing adventures. It is this quest which consumes the bulk of the story. Tristran does find the star he is looking for, but it is not anything like what he expects. Still, he endeavors to bring it back to Victoria, no matter the cost.
Strengths: the prose was excellent; the characters were reasonably well-developed given the time and space the author had. The plot was okay: Perhaps the natural surprise and intrigue suffered because I had seen the movie previously. Weaknesses: I take issue with a few things. There were several elements in the novel that jarred on me because they seemed more appropriate for an adult book than something written in the Fairy-Tale type of style and tone that Stardust seemed to embody to me. There was a sex scene (although not too graphic), and a few profanities like p*** (which isn’t a really big one), and also f***. Like I said, they just didn’t fit the tone of the novel as a whole and were therefore kind of jarring. In any event, the novel never really gripped me. It wasn’t bad. It just lacked something I can’t define.
I’ll give Neil Gaiman’s Stardust three and a half stars out of five.
Disney’s Maleficent is the latest reimagining of a Disney children’s tale as a rated PG film—more palatable for adults, but not quite as intense as a PG-13 or higher film. It is based on the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, my favorite as a young child (I mean, it has a dragon! What more do you want?) Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, Elle Fanning as the Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Sharlto Copley as King Stefan.
The story begins with the younger years of Maleficent, a female human-sized fairy living in the fairy moor right next door to the human kingdom. One day she finds a young human boy who is trying to steal a small gem from fairyland. She makes him give it back and the two of them become friends. As time goes by, their relationship deepens. When Maleficent turns sixteen, Stefan gives her what he says is true love’s kiss. Unfortunately, things don’t last and he becomes an infrequent visitor lured away by the honors, riches, and desires that dominate the human world. Maleficent is hurt, of course, but she survives. She goes on with her life. But soon the king of the human kingdom turns his eye toward her moor and conflict ensues. This conflict forms the backdrop of the entire Sleeping Beauty story. But it’s Sleeping Beauty with a twist. Maleficent is set up as a sympathetic character for the movie.
Strengths: the acting was good, the plot good, and the special effects were quite remarkable. I couldn’t find any logical holes in a single viewing. The life lessons were decent; the message about love well-taken. Weaknesses: my biggest problem with the film is that since it is based on Sleeping Beauty it would likely draw a very young crowd in spite of the PG rating. It’s not as bad as a PG-13 rating, but even so, redefining Maleficent as a misunderstood heroine will likely be confusing to the very young who are familiar with the original tale. Further, I felt that Disney missed an opportunity to reconcile King Stefan with Maleficent—such would have made a powerful tale of forgiveness that would have been very instructive. As it was, the ending was okay, but perhaps a little dark for the very young.
Anyway, I’ll give Disney’s Maleficent four stars out of five with a warning that some of the plot may be too mature for the very young. Still, it was a good movie.