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Wonderful drawings, but where's the story?
on 10 January 2011
Negative reviews aren't normally my thing, but I think fans of Gaiman and Vess's earlier collaborations deserve to know that this book is thin gruel indeed compared to their previous ventures into the realm of faerie.
Many of the same readers might already have the text of Instructions, which appears as a poem in Gaiman's short story collection Fragile Things. It's fine in and of itself, but it could only be considered a story in the loosest and most tenuous sense of that term.
I purchased this book hoping that it would be a storybook. Even at just 40 pages long, I have enough regard for the work of Gaiman and Vess to think them capable of weaving a bit of magic in that space. Unfortunately, despite the quality of the illustrations, this just didn't do it for me. The book didn't transport me into another world because there was - in my view, and maybe that reflects a lack of imagination on my part - not sufficient story to work with the pictures.
On the plus side, however, this slight disappointment has spurred me to dig out my old copies of Stardust, The Books of Magic and The Sandman, which are absolutely terrific. Timeless fairy tales for adults that are as good as anything ever produced in the genre. Gaiman's universe, as illustrated by Vess, is a truly wondrous place. Can't wait for their next full-scale collaboration.