The book, turned into a very popular movie that has quickly achieved cult status, was published in 1998. Originally it started out as a written story that was published in comic book form (sort of). Neil Gaiman, the author, wanted artwork displayed with the book and from what I read, convinced his friend Charles Vess to do the illustrations. It was published by… of all people, DC Comics!
Keep in mind though, this is NOT a comic book. Far far from it. Given the layout, the way the illustrations tend to flow around the words, and the drop cap, illuminated caps at the beginning of each chapter… I have to say that its closer to looking like a medieval book (See book of hours for further reference.)
It’s written in a very old world form of English and will require a slightly more expanded vocabulary to fully appreciate the writing. I personally love that Gaiman chose to do this as it fits in with the type of story that it is. This is written as a very traditional fantasy, paying homage to the pre-Tolkien styles and stories that many of us grew up with.
So I just finished the book… and… honestly I’m kind of on the fence about this one.
Why? Well… maybe because I saw the movie first… ill-advised, I know, but my introduced me to it. I didn’t even know a book existed until about a year later. So in typical collector fashion, I sought out a first edition… and found one that was Autographed by Charles Vess.
So going through this book, it reads fairly similar to the movie. It starts off dealing with Dunstan Thorn and then follows the adventures of his son Tristran (Not Tristan) Thorn as he searches for the fallen star to bring back to his true love.
Overall, the book definitely delves a lot more into the world of Faerie (Not Stormhold). The book starts off kind of slow, as most traditional fantasies do. In fact, the star barely makes an appearance until about half way through. We’re also introduced to many characters, including a nymph tree, a rabbit-like hairy man, among others.
The artwork is also sort of a fairy tale, old-world style, which compliments the book nicely and is unexpectedly dazzling to look at:
Keeping in mind though… THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND I MEAN BY ANY STRETCH!
However there are several things that I don’t like about this story, and again, this may be more the movie’s fault!
Spoilers ahead folks, be ready!
So what did I like about the book?
As I said, the artwork, the expansive story, the overall writing style, and a completely original world that we haven’t seen before. The character development was great, the relationship between the main cast was very well fleshed out, and motivations behind everything they did were clearly established.
What didn’t I like?
The sky pirates aren’t as developed as they were in the movie and the captains hobbies are not explored either as they are in the movie. The movie took quite a bit of dramatic license.
The ending… my God the ending… This is one of those rare books where its strong enough to survive an iffy conclusion. Again, this is partially the fault of the movie. Where the movie ends with Tristran and the Star living many years together and then leaving for the Heavens to live together forever as stars… in the book the star can NEVER return to her domain. After Tristran dies, the immortal star becomes the lady of Stormhold and rules by herself. The book ends by saying that she spends her nights up in the highest tower looking up at the heavens, sadly.
Ugh!!! Maybe I’m just a pampered brat, but this is not my kind of ending. It left me unsatisfied and really just looking at it like ‘…. what the heck!?’
I might recommend skipping the Epilogue.
Now again, maybe I’d feel different if I’d read the book first, but I didn’t.
So with all this in mind, what is my overall rating?
I can’t in good conscience downvote the book because of the movie. As far as I’m concerned, they are not the same story. Where one expands, the other cuts back. The book covers more time, but the movie really gets the character better. The relationship in the movie feels rushed and almost cliched and is explained far better in the book.
Do I recommend it? Hell yes! It is an amazing story in its own right and is one that fantasy junkies like myself will love for years to come. This gem of a book is going on my shelf right next to my first edition NeverEnding Story and Silmarillion.
Have you read it? Let me know what you think in the comments.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
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Catch you on the flip side!
Good review. I think I remember this book. I agree with you about the movie. As to the ending, I recall that this was typical for some 17-19th century fantasy genre books. In Grimms’ faerie tales, some stories had similar endings. In Tolkien’s LOR, the elven wife of Aragorn was pretty much the same. I think this kind of endings was meant to keep us grounded to reality. I like it, but then I am from an older generation.