Stardust, by veteran fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, is every bit deserving of the Alex Award (as well as any other acclaim and praise it has since received). It's got everything you can expect from a genius of the genre: Adventure, Action, magic, fantastic creatures, prophecies, daring rescues, truly worthy villains, a hero you can really root for, true love... For, yes, this IS a kissing book. Oh yes! But as with the grandson in that iconic movie featuring another famous "kissing book," by the time you actually get to the kissing part, you don't mind so much. Even if you're not really into the kissing thing in the books you read. There's something otherworldly about this story, something old-school fairy tale (and NOT Disney), that truly transports the reader.
The sign of an excellent and well-written story.
Stardust begins, as most fantasy stories do, before the birth of the hero. Dustan Thorn has lived all his life in the town of Wall, named for a wall that separates the town proper from a meadow on the other side. But this is no ordinary wall. It marks the dividing line between the mortal world and the faery realm. Once every nine years, the residents of wall are permitted to cross this boundry and visit the faery market. It is here where Dustan meets the odd girl, who sells him a magical glass flower and then charms him. Nine months after Dustan has returned to mortal life, a baby boy is delivered to his doorstep. This baby is our hero, Tristran Thorn.
Flash forward 18 years and Tristran is a young man. Like many of the guys in his village, he is smitten with Victoria (who, I might add, is a tease and a bit of a brat). One night while Tristran is walking his crush home, the two spy a falling star. Victoria tells Tristran she will do anything he wants (kiss him, marry him) if he will but cross the wall and bring her the star.
So he does just this. And thus begins an adventure of a lifefime.
Turns out, the star isn't what he expected. Also, he's not alone in his quest. Some very dangerous people also seek the star, and won't let anything or anyone stand in their way.
To say anymore would be a spoiler.
I'll just say this: I loved the book. Loved it!
Several years after the publication of Stardust, Hollywood decided to make a movie based on the book. As with most book-to-movie adaptions, the interpretation of the text was pretty lax (to say the least). The film began much like the book, with some subtle differences. But once our hero crosses the wall, things are different. Characters names were changed. Physical descriptions didn't match up. Things happend out of order. Important plot points were left out. And the ending was completely rewritten to make things more exciting and dramatic for the audience (In the book, there was no epic showdown battle between good and evil. It just ended...happily ever after, of course). It was the same story, but barely.
The film was enjoyable, but the book was much, much better (as is the case 99% of the time). --AJB