I saw the film version of Stardust before I read the book. Maybe that was the problem. The film is a massive departure from the novel, I can see why they made the changes (in fact, I’m not sure I’d have seen movie potential in the book if I’d read it cold). I picked it from my to-be-read pile partly because it was small (so I thought quick to read — it was) and partly because it had a reputation.
That’s not to say the book wasn’t interesting. As I said, perhaps seeing the film had spoiled much of the surprise (and the film certainly didn’t get it all right, it adds many elements, some of which really weren’t great). The novel has an Old World feel about, I wasn’t surprised to find a quote from and mention of Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell — which has a similar vibe — on the cover and inside. It does feel like something more in keeping with the time the book conveys; Victorian England.
While the film rightly brings the romance between the star and Tristran to the front, amps up the nastiness of the baddies and increases both the pace and urgency, the book doesn’t seem to have these, at once moving at a stately pace yet also skipping by characters and adventures with barely a mention.
Where the book does prosper is in the interesting characters they had to leave out of the film, who are a strange ragtag of bizarre creatures who all seem to see the hapless Tristran right. They seem to be passed on and by all too quickly though.
It’s not that I disliked the book, I just didn’t find it particularly thrilling and engaging and it seems to finish rather more with a whimper than a bang. Imaginative and detailed yes, compelling, not so much.