Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Audiobook)

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperAudio
Date: September 2006
ISBN-13: 9780061153921
Read by: Neil Gaiman

Plot Summary: Tristran Thorn was raised in the village of Wall, on the border of England and Faerie.  When he sees a star fall on the other side of the wall that creates the boundary between the two worlds, he promises to retrieve it for the most beautiful girl in the village, who has rejected his previous advances.

Tristran is not the only one interested in the fate of the fallen star.  On the other side of the wall, a witch and her two sisters plot to find and capture it for themselves, so they can use it to make themselves youthful again.  And a pair of brothers are vying to be the next Lord of Stormhold after the death of their father.  In order to ascend the throne, they must retrieve the Power of Stormhold – a topaz necklace that will be found with the star.  And in the midst of this there is Yvaine, a beautiful and bright woman who injured her leg when she fell from the heavens…

Critical Evaluation: As audiobooks go, it is always wonderful to find one that helps the story to come alive for the listener.  When the author reads the book, the audience is lucky to be hearing the story as it was intended to be told.  Listening to Neil Gaiman read Stardust was a pleasure, particularly because his British accent lent an air of authenticity to the voices of his characters.

By creating a wall that separates England from the world of Faerie, Gaiman uses a technique that I find makes fantasy stories like this more believable.  I think it is always more effective to have characters from the “real” world enter into the realm of fantasy – imagine if the Pevensies had been raised in Narnia, or if Alice had always been in Wonderland.  He was also able to use this boundary as a significant part of the plot – if Yvaine crossed into Wall, she would be transformed into a lump of rock.

I was familiar with the film adaptation of the Stardust story, but I’d never read the book before listening to this audio version, so I enjoyed noting where the plot had been changed for the movie, and getting deeper into the story.  For instance, there is a scene in the film where a unicorn appears to rescue Yvaine.  In the book, the unicorn is first encountered when it is fighting with a lion over a crown – a much more symbolic introduction.  The plot with the witch, particularly the ending, is quite different in the book (but perhaps not dramatic enough for movie audiences).  Also, Tristran is renamed Tristan in the film.

I was surprised how much more adult the book was than the movie.  There are somewhat descriptive sex scenes, a bit of graphic violence, and one use of the “F” word (otherwise, not much profanity).  I have a copy of the graphic novel version of the story (illustrated and unabridged), and Vertigo Comics recommends it for “mature readers.”  In my opinion, it would be appropriate for high school students, particularly older teens, who are crossing over from young adult fantasy into adult fantasy.  The amount of content is not overwhelming.

Reader’s Annotation: Tristran Thorn ventures into the realm of Faerie to retrieve a fallen star to impress the most beautiful girl in his village.  What he doesn’t know is that the star is actually a woman, and that he is not the only one seeking her.

Author Information: Neil Gaiman is the author of several works of fantasy and science fiction for adults, young adults and children.  He has written short stories, novels, comic books, and screenplays.  Many of his books have been adapted into films, including Stardust and Coraline.  Gaiman has won several awards and honors for his writing, including the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, and the Newbery Medal.  Gaiman grew up in England, and currently lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Gaiman describes his writing behavior and his experience of creating Stardust: “As far as I’m concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning. It’s not writing when you don’t want to, and writing late at night if you want to. I’m a fairly undisciplined writer. I’m the kind of writer who, if a deadline is looming and I’m not there yet, will go off and take a room for a couple of weeks in a cheap hotel somewhere that I don’t know anybody, and do nothing but put my head down and finish the book or the project. It depends on what I’m writing as to how I actually write. Stardust was written in longhand because I wanted to inject the kind of feeling to recreate the kind of sentence structure, emotion, the whole thing that people had in, say, the 1920s. I wanted a slightly archaic voice. Most of all, I didn’t want to do what I know that I do when I’m working on a computer. I work on a computer as if I’m working in clay. You put down the kind of thing that you mean and then you look at that for a few seconds. And then you work into it, you delete this word, you add that word. You change the tense. You decide that isn’t quite what you meant and you use a thesaurus or whatever. There is no discontinuity. There is no break between your first and second draft. There is no first or second draft. What you have is an ongoing, improving first draft. With Stardust, I wanted to write a novel that could have been written, with perhaps the exception of two rather mild sex scenes, one moment of ultraviolence and the word “fuck” written very small, it could have been written in the 1920s.” (Source)

Genre: Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Track the development of Tristran and Yvaine’s relationship.
2) View the movie version and discuss the differences.
3) Think of other titles that juxtapose real and fantasy worlds.

Interest Age: 15 and older

Challenge Issues: sexual content, some graphic violence, an instance of profanity

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the audiobook and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and others available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I chose this audiobook because I was looking for a fantasy written for adults that would also appeal to teenagers.  It was an added bonus to have Gaiman reading his work.


Neil Gaiman’s website and blog.

Stardust Film trailer:


February 15, 2010 - Posted by | Audiobooks | ,

1 Comment »

  1. most of the time i listen to audiobooks while surfing the net, i love to multitask he he ~

    Comment by Bottled Water : | October 31, 2010 | Reply

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