Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Hopelessly crossed in love, a boy of half-fairy parentage leaves his mundane Victorian-English village on a quest for a fallen star in the magical realm. The star proves to be an attractive woman with a hot temper, who plunges with our hero into adventures featuring witches, the lion and the unicorn, plotting elf-lords, ships that sail the sky, magical transformations, curses whose effects rebound, binding conditions with hidden loopholes and all the rest.
I was really looking forward to this having previously read Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and thoroughly enjoying them. I enjoyed Stardust, just not with the same magical fervour I experienced with the other two
Gaiman writes his prose with his usual eloquent simplicity, creating the world of Faerie on our protagonist's back door step, as though each of us, if we knew where to look, could step into fantastic lands and have the same other-worldly experiences as Tristran. He's a magical storyteller, and his skill doesn't falter here in creating a world of wonder.
I had issues with the characters, most of all Tristran. He seemed to traverse his way through Faerie as though on a high dose of diazepam, with nothing impacting him greatly, nor affecting his feelings in any way. He was calm until the last, and this irked me. I wanted to know far more about him; he was only half-mortal, and I wanted to see him have some Matilda-style discovering of how he differed from the bland children of Wall. Nothing. When his father broke the news to him of his parentage (and Daddy's pre-marital accident with the lady of violet eyes and cat-like ears), we didn't get to witness the exchange, nor were we treated to Tristran's reaction, or his father's choice of words. It was little things such as this that I missed, and desperately needed; some sort of human side to the oddities I was shown.
The other characters were incredibly interesting, but also lacked backstory and development. Little hairy man, what are you and what's the story with the bag? Witches, I love you, I am in awe of you, but please tell me about that place beyond the mirror. If this book were 600 pages long with all these details, it would be far, far better. Maybe I'm greedy.
I was also really disappointed in the finale, but I feel I may have already gone to far into spoiler territory to comment fully on this. The decisions made, and reasonings behind them were weak, I felt disappointed at the lack of danger which had been repeatedly implied, and maybe happy ever after just isn't my thing at all.
Nevertheless, I liked it, despite being entirely prepared to love it. It's very Gaiman, and it's very magical. I'd absolutely recommend, but please try The Ocean at the End of the Lane if you're looking for something spectacular.