This is posted as part of Keishon’s TBR Day challenge, which is aimed at encouraging us readers with the towering TBR piles (you know who you are) to start tackling the books that have been languishing in there for eons.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Copyright Date: 1999
Why did I buy this book? My sister had a bit of a Gaiman glom some time back, and insisted that I read this one. We more or less share the same tastes when it comes to reading, so I took her word that this was a good one.
Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long? I read the first couple of chapters about a year ago now, just before the movie came out. While I thought his writing had a certain charm, I just wasn’t in the right mood. And once I’ve started a book and not continued, I have a very bad habit of not returning to it!
What is it about? From the back-cover blurb:
In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall. Young Tristan Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is as cold and distant as the star she and Tristan see fall from the sky one evening. For the prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristan vows to retrieve the star for his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town’s ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…
So what did I think of it? Once I made up my mind to read this, I was totally engrossed. I thought it read like a charming fairy tale for adults. And for such a slim book (194 pages in my version), it packs so much story and is wonderfully-plotted. All the subplots somehow tie themselves in with the main thread and come together beautifully at the end. I say “somehow”, because it’s not at all obvious how they’re going to fit together or resolve themselves, yet everything works out perfectly!
It’s full of whimsical gems; this sentence describing the size of Fairie is a lovely example:
But Faerie is bigger than England, as it is bigger than the world (for, since the dawn of time, each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there has taken refuge in Faerie; so it is now, but the time that we come to write of it, a most huge place indeed, containing every manner of landscape and terrain).
Character-wise, Tristan, the protagonist, is a very engaging young man, and watching him grow into himself throughout the book was completely satisfying. All the secondary characters are nicely fleshed-out, and for a story that reads like a lighthearted fairy-tale at first, the evil characters do radiate a proper sense of menace and danger. Which makes it all the more gratifying when they get their come-uppance. And yes, there’s humour – there were some bits that made me snicker.
The only thing that kept niggling at me – and this is very much just me – is that because I knew that there was a movie (sigh, I held off on watching the movie because I wanted to read the books first… time to hit the DVD rentals, I think), I kept on trying to visualise how a scene would transfer onto the big screen! Arrghh. I did try to stop myself, but I would catch myself doing it. Very annoying.
My conclusion? A very strong B+ and I think I’ll have to track down more of Mr Gaiman’s backlist. Does anyone know if his other books are written in the same style?