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by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (illustrator)
Titan Books, 1999. Paperback. 221 pages.
ISBN 1840230525 (buy at Amazon.co.uk)
Bought on 11 December 2001 at Amazon.co.uk for £11.99
This book is one of the gentlest pieces of work I have seen from Neil Gaiman; while he calls it "A Romance within the Realms of Faerie" in some ways, it is a fairy tale.
If you have never read anything by Neil Gaiman, this is a fine place to start, and I feel lucky to introduce him to you. His work rises from a gorgeous whimsy which alternates between the breathtakingly beautiful and the heart-twistingly dark. His writing is excellent on a minute level, word by word, image by image, and his characters are plausible, compelling, and real.
If you have, be prepared for more of the same. This book is a delight, very pleasing in itself, with no unsatisfied feelings left at the end. In fact, the moment I finished it, I picked it up again, to read aloud to my boyfriend.
The lush and beautiful watercolors of Charles Vess are a beautiful complement to the story (in fact, I could not imagine it without them, as I've never read the unillustrated version). They capture the depth of the world, the ephemeral quality of the reality, and the changing palette of good and evil, beauty and horror very well. (in short, don't buy the one without pictures if you can buy the one with them!) Vess's illustrations serve to make even more delightfully immersive a book that will already swallow you for hours on end.
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