NESFA Members' Reviews


by Neil Gaiman

Avon Books/Spike, 1999, ISBN 0-380-97728-1

A book review by Elisabeth Carey.

This is a fairy tale, the like of which you have had read to you many times before, except that Gaiman pays more attention to character and motivation than Mother Goose or the Brothers Grimm customarily did. In the village of Wall, there is a wall, which is the boundary between the mundane world and Fairy, and every nine years, there's a fair in the meadow, just the other side of the wall, and people come from all over the world to visit and barter and have adventures. A young man of Wall, Dunstan Thorn, bargains with a visitor to give him a night's lodging, and part of the payment is that Dunstan, and his firstborn, and his firstborn's firstborn, will each achieve their heart's desire.

The bulk of the story is about Dunstan's firstborn, Tristram, whose mother is a woman of Fairy. At eight years old, Tristram is greatly frustrated and annoyed because his parents send him away to visit relatives just in time to miss the first Fairy Market since his birth, nine months after the last Market. Eight years after that, Tristram wants to win the girl he's infatuated with, and she promises to kiss him, indeed to marry him, if he brings her that falling star that they have just seen falling through the night sky, to the east--the direction of the wall, and Fairy.

And thus begin Tristram's adventures, with a rather different outcome than he plans on. Tristram and all the inhabitants of Wall are fundamentally decent human beings; the outcome depends on that fact. This is a marvelous book.

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