Stardust by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Charles Vess, is one of my favorite reads of the last few years. It's a fantastic romance set in Faerie, the adventures of a young lad with a hidden destiny, a fallen star, witches, secret societies, lost days of glory, ghosts, silly girls, monsters and flying ships. The story is intricate and beautiful and more than a little bittersweet. Vess' illustrations are the prefect complement to Gaiman's text. The whole thing is so wonderful that I re-read it a few times a year.
It would be impossible for a movie adaptation to measure up to a written story that I love so much. I knew that going in, so I decided to view the movie as a completely separate creation. Which ended up being a good thing, as it was even more different than I was expecting.
All the major characters were represented, though they were all different in significant ways. Most of the major plotlines were there, but they were so changed it was like a totally different story. The ending was so different I had to wonder what they were thinking. Damn Hollywood.
Even so, the movie was pretty good. Lots of fun, good acting, good pacing, etc. If you didn't know what you were missing, it would have seemed like a lot.
If you saw the movie and liked it, get the illustrated novel and read the real story. You'll be blown away.