Book has more sex, less violence than the movie.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers might have fun comparing and contrasting this to the movie version

Positive messages

This is adventure story, but Tristran does have to face off against some evil folks, including mean witches and murderous princes. While they are motivated by the search for youth and power, he is motivated by love. 

Positive role models

Tristran does make some good choices (like encouraging Victoria to marry the man she loves, even if it makes breaking a promise to him). 


Some grisly violence including throat cutting, disemboweling animals, and killing a unicorn by stabbing it through the eye and then decapitating it.


A fairly graphic sex scene, sexual references, an oblique reference to erections.


Some swearing, including "f--k."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and drunkenness, smoking a pipe.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's a graphic sex scene early in the book and other references to sex and erections as the pages turn. While there's not much violence compared with other fantasy novels, there are somewhat gruesome images, especially the stabbing of a unicorn in the eye and its decapitation. Gaiman also gets in some swear words (including "f--k") and references to drinking.

What's the story?

Half-blood Tristran grew up on the human side of the wall between England and Faerie. One day, while trying to convince a local beauty to marry him -- or at least kiss him -- he promises to get her a fallen star (that happens to be a beautiful woman) that they saw shooting through the sky. Unfortunately, it (she) fell far on the other side of the wall.

So Tristran sets off through Faerie to try to find the star. But he's got some competition, as a witch-queen and her sisters want to catch the fallen star and cut out her heart while she's still alive in order to renew their youth. And, at the same time, three murderous princes set out to find the jewel that will give one of them the power to ascend their dead father's throne.

Is it any good?


This fantasy novel with a pleasant enough story didn't make much of a splash when it was first published, but it was reissued to coincide with the release of the movie version. Written in the style of a novel-length fairytale, it has both the advantages and disadvantages of that genre: Teens will appreciate the vivid magical setting and sense of surprise and wonder, but will find the lack of any character development makes it difficult for them to feel emotionally attached. In the end, it's a lovely soap bubble, bright and glittering and entertaining, but without much heart.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bringing a book to the big screen. How does the movie version compare? What gets lost or is gained by creating a movie out of a novel? 

  • How does reading about sex and violence feel different than seeing it in a movie or experiencing it in a video game? Should parents be as concerned with the books their kids read as they are about what they see on a screen?

Book details

Author:Neil Gaiman
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1999
Number of pages:333
Read aloud:14
Read alone:14

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 11 years old December 23, 2008

Good book.

Actually a good book. The scene at the beginning almost made me stop reading it, but I wondered what would happen. A pleasant book, although the gruesome death of the unicorn was a little graphic. I saw the movie first, so I thought it would be like the book. I was wrong. Although the movie hinted that it was based on the book, it was more of a child-friendly remake. (If you are my age, then I suggest you don't read this book unless you think you can andle it.) Three stars.


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