The first book by Neil Gaiman that I ever read was Stardust. I wasn’t impressed… or, rather, I was dismayed (see the “10 Bad Books” post). However, given the stellar reviews that I got from a fellow nerdy bookworm friend, I mustered my courage and purchased Neverwhere. Amazingly enough, the sarcasm and rather cynical tone that so turned me off of Stardust really worked for this book.

My favorite character is the Marquis de Carabas. Not only does he provide the witty/comic relief, his character is really well-written. He’s that perfect blend of self-serving and helpful that had me guessing at what his true motives are for the entire novel. I think he reminds me of the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s movie, Labyrinth. That might be part of why I like him so much.

Richard, despite his bumbling nature, is really a likable guy. Usually, the indecisive, frightened main character annoys me, but Richard pulls it off well. The biggest thing is that he faces his challenges and grows into the strange world that he has found himself in, instead of cowering behind the more experienced characters. In the end, his stumbling bravery morphs into true self-confidence that allows him to thrive in London Below.

Even the assassins, Croup and Vandemar are enjoyable – being just creepy enough that you really do fear them, but still being capable of ripping off some priceless one-liners. I think it’s their lack of overt malice that makes them so chilling – they’re just so matter-of-fact (occasionally even cheerful) about the whole thing.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. It’s a quirky blend of the familiar and the unknown that makes for an engrossing read. Gaiman really manages to create a plot where you’re never really certain what to expect. That sense of disorientation pulls the reader in and helps us sympathize with Richard’s confusion, and keeps us reading as we try to find out footing. After all the twists and turns, the ending is satisfying.

I was so pleased with Neverwhere, that I put aside my disgruntlement with Stardust and promptly bought Good Omens and American Gods. I’m sure I’ll do entries on them as soon as I finish them. 🙂