18 April 2013

Stardust Read Along Pt. 2

Well, Stardust was an interesting interlude between the two other Neil Gaiman novels.  I’m glad to have participated and I always enjoy read alongs because the questions either require that I think differently about the book or force me to articulate some half-formed thoughts.  Carl is especially good at generating questions that get to the meat of a story, but also some of the fun too.

Of course, one of the best parts of a read along is visiting and discussing with other bloggers.  For Stardust, it has been a great, smart group and I can’t wait to hear from everyone again.  Thanks again Carl for organizing this and I look forward to the book vs. movie discussion to follow.

So how about Carl's questions.

1.  In the first part we saw a naive, wool-headed and self-involved Tristran.  What are your thoughts about Tristran and his personal journey now that the book has ended?

Carl did a good job of bringing me around to Tristran during the last discussion.  Tristran’s journey was predictable but fun, funny at times.  At first I wasn’t sure he had changed all that much by the end.  Now that I’m sitting here thinking about it more, I like that Tristran’s journey resulted in a realistic personal growth.  We saw his unhealthy infatuation with Victoria vanish, his niavete lessen, but his sudden choice to travel the world with Yvaine recalled some of the old impulsive, romantic Tristran.  It seemed a very human way to “grow”.

2.  The star, who we now know as Yvaine, also experienced a transformation of her own.  So I ask the same question, what are your thoughts about Yvaine and the journey she took?

I had a hard time getting on board with Yvaine’s transformation.  I thought the progression from hating Tristran, to feeling obligated to him, to falling in love with him was forced and frankly, I failed to make that last jump from obligation to love.  I thought for a minute I had missed something.  Yvaine seemed to rather abruptly change her mind about him at each stage and I never really developed much of an emotional connection with her.

I never really saw her as destined for something bigger either.  We meet her as a fallen star with a broken leg, helpless and I felt rather insipid at times.  That she would later become a wise and balanced ruler was certainly a more appealing fate than just wasting after Tristan died, but I never got a real sense of a trajectory from her.

I wouldn’t say I was particularly upset about her character or her journey, but frankly, I didn’t really follow her transformation very well and as a result didn’t have much of a connection to her.

3.  The villains of the story came to interesting ends, but not necessarily expected ones.  How do you feel about Neil Gaiman's handling of the Stormhold brothers (who had remained at the end of Part 1) and the two witches, the one Lilim and Ditchwater Sal?

This was certainly the most interesting treatment of villains I can recall for a long time.  I mentioned how much I enjoyed seeing the witch queen humbled while at the same time demonstrating her terrible power.  Gaiman only intensified his very unusual handling of villains and I only enjoyed it, and them, even more in the second half.

4.  Were there any descriptions, characters, settings, plot threads that stood out to you personally during this second half of the book?

I was rather touched by the carefree approach to experiencing the world that overtook Tristran and Yvain after leaving Victoria.  There was this one last thing tethering them to Wall, Tristran’s family and society.  Once that was eliminated, and combined with the feeling from the first half of the book that Tristran’s parents could have done with a little more upfront honesty about Tristran, their choice to just aimlessly wander was deeply satisfying to me. 

5.  At the very end of the book we see that Tristran and Yvaine's relationship and fate echoes that of Aragorn and Arwen from The Lord of the Rings.  If this question makes any sense to you (lol), what comparisons and/or contrasts do you see, especially in the fates of Yvaine and Arwen?

I came to this same conclusion about the two couples myself.  I’m not sure I have a lot to add about that here though as it was mostly just something of a passing thought once or twice.  What did strike me a differentiating the two was that Yvaine didn’t seem nearly as concerned about what her life would be like with Tristran gone.  Perhaps this is the result of a life span counted on a galactic scale, or because Yvaine was less emotionally tied to her man?  I’m not sure I have that answer, I admit it has been several years since I read LOTR.

6.   What are your overall impressions of the story now that it is done?

In broad strokes, I liked it.  Probably my favorite of Gaiman’s stories that I’ve read.  I was fun and whimsical in a vague and vaguely dark way.  I think this is one to be read several times over the course of a life.  I imagine it would take on drastically different meanings each time.

7.  If Gaiman were to return to Wall/Faerie, would you take another journey there?  If so, are there any adventures hinted at in Stardust that you would like to see Neil expand on?

My first inclination was to say that all I cared about was Dunstan, but I think I’d also revisit Wall/Faerie for more about any of the villains.  Any of them at all.


  1. I LOVE the comparison between Tristran's initial wanderings, and his decision to continue wandering with Yvaine. I hadn't thought about that, but that makes so much sense as a continued thread for the character. Thanks for the insight!

  2. I don't want to come off sounding sexist, but I think a large part of my understanding of Tristran comes from having a very good recollection of the way I was as an adolescent male. I think to truly understand the journey Tristran took you have to at least be willing to look back on that time in life and remember what it was like to be a teenager, when the world was centered around you and being an idiot was pretty much par for the course. It didn't mean that our feelings at that time were any less valid, that our love's were any less true. It meant that we could barely get our minds off of ourselves and had a hard time being led anywhere by anything other than our hormones. It was also a time where it was very easy to come to a sudden realization that some person in your life--your parents, your siblings, a friend--was more important than you had been aware of before.

    I feel the same way about Yvaine's story. She is essentially an adolescent too and while she's had years of watching humanity from a lofty distance she is only now having to navigate the human world. And again, I think if you just bring personal experience to the story it is not that hard to see how two people thrown together in such times would suddenly come to the realization that they loved each other and actually had for some time.

    I'm with you in that I cannot recall another book where the villains as a whole are treated the way they are here. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is unique, but it is rare and I liked that.

    I agree that the wandering is very satisfying. I like that idea of them having time to grow their new relationship by just setting out for more adventures together.

    I think Yvaine's time as a star and looking down and seeing how ultimately insignificant some of the events we find significant are when seen across the scope of time is very much one of the reasons she seems to take things in stride and not be as emotionally affected by them. At the same time I suspect all that sadness and longing is there, just unseen by us.

  3. As much as I love this book, I have to agree with you about Yvaine. I felt connected to her int eh first half, where she was cussing over her broken leg. Who wouldn't? And I got her obligation to Tristran due to the life saving heroics. But then...when did the love happen? Perhaps during their travels together? I mean, she had to stay with him anyway until her obligation was complete. So, perhaps love of convenience?

  4. this book sound like wonder full.every body like it.

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