After this most recent reread, I’m knocking the book down a star. Not that I still don’t absolutely love this book, but compared to some of Neil Gaiman’s other work, it almost reaches that level, but just misses by a few feet.Stardust is a fantasy novel that knows it’s a fantasy novel and pokes at that fact repeatedly. I wouldn’t call it a satire, because while it does parody certain tropes in fairy tales and fantasy, there’s a deep homage to them. I love the settings of Wall and Faerie, and the nostalgic feel that Gaiman invokes. I know that he’s mentioned about doing more with his version of Faerie, and it really comes across that it’s a fully realized world with thousands of stories to tell. And while Wall is described as being this plain little town, there’s enough emotion and familiarity infused into that it does feel like the sort of little town a hero would be from.Although I find him adorable, as heroes go, Tristran’s fairly bland. He’s not seemingly special, there’s no real thrilling heroics involved in his adventures, and he gets by with a little bit of luck. He is a quick think, particular in the scene at the inn, but aside from those few moments, he pretty much embodies the role of Designated Hero. (Although I do like his fanboying penny dreadfuls and adventure books.) Yvaine does fall into the trap of Designated Heroine, but I liked that she was quick-witted and frustrated with her situation. She does feel like a commentary on women in fairy tales—dragged around by the hero at will while everyone’s trying to get her because, well, she’s the heroine. (Well, a star in this case, but you get the point.) Yvaine doesn’t do much either throughout the plot, but I like that she’s snappy.And this is where I have my problem with the book. Most of the plot follows Tristran and Yvaine finding each other and going back to Wall, and evading the witch-queen and Septimus. But, just as the book’s wrapping up, it’s mentioned that they have fantastic adventures that covers a grand total of one page in my copy. And while I understand that these other adventures aren’t a part of the main story, it kinda bugs me when I’m reading about more interesting stuff that gets glossed over.The other…nitpick, if you will, about this book is that the supporting cast really outshines Tristran and Yvaine. I adore the airship adventures of Captain Alberic and his crew; I love the little hairy dwarf who’s known as “Charmed” (especially that he’s the only one to say to Tristran “You’re an idiot.”) While the Lords of Stormhold are definitely not nice people, I still enjoyed their storyline, especially as it starts to entwine with Tristran’s story. And their ghosts are hysterical. I wish there had been a little more done with the witch-queens and their ‘defeat,’ but they still made for good villains. (Also, the zombie unicorn is one of the creepiest things that I’ve ever read.) If there’s one thing that Gaiman pulls off brilliantly, it’s his plotting, as always. The set-up involving the slave girl and her relation to the majority of the characters is worked in subtly, so when the big revelation of who she is and what the riddle means, it feels natural. The riddle in the book does make perfect sense in context, but it’s still misleading the first few times its mentioned. He doesn’t rely on glaringly obvious plot points, they appear slowly, resulting in a gradual reveal. And it’s just a fun book to read. As much as I go on about how creepy Neil Gaiman can get, Stardust is such a departure from his other work, and still manages to be enjoyable. I’ve always had a grin on my face each time I’ve read it, and this reread was no different.