The Starless Sea

Name: The Starless Sea

Author: Erin Morgenstein

Published: 2019

Song: The Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie (or Nirvana?)

Are you lost or are you exploring?

When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood.

Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover – a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth.

When the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race with Mirabel, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.

This book that walks the thin line between sensational and just a bit weird – and for the majority, I wasn’t sure which side it strayed.

The Starless Sea is set in my dream location – a young man called Zachary discovers a secret infinite library underground. With endless amounts of books. And a Kitchen that will prepare whatever food you want. Forget about Narnia, this is what I want in the back of my wardrobe! Erin Morgenstern has such a beautiful style that sometimes I would forget that that’s literally all the plot was – a grown man wandering around a mad library.

Or is plot the right word?

There were hundreds of storylines in the book, but not really a main PLOT. Each chapter was separated by a passage of a different made-up story – and it was 500 pages long. That’s a lot of stories! It got to a point where almost every chapter was ending on a cliffhanger; I had to endure an admittedly very nice, but very LONG description of the moon before I could discover if someone had died. Whilst a few tied together eventually (in a ‘Oh wait, we have to include this’ sort of way) so many of these, arguably very beautiful, stories seemed extremely random. I got the impression that I could read the book again and again and pick up different references each time. However, that would take at least a few years and I really don’t have that sort of time.

By the end of the book, I had lost track of all the stories (something I think was intended) which created a strange sense of an overwhelming amount of characters and tales – which was how Zachary described being in this infinite library. It was quite clever.

So, I’ve seen films that acknowledge themselves as films, an alarming amount of pantos where the characters accept themselves only existing for the shows, but never a book that acknowledges itself to be a book. Apart from the occasional wHaT iF tHiS iS alL a sToRy, I’ve just never seen it before. However, Zachary reads the books between the chapters with you, even that beautiful cover looks as if it’s a collection of books and, when it was nearing the end, certain characters began to say that it was the end too. It’s hard to explain. You’ll just have to read it!

“But the world is strange and endings are not truly endings no matter how the stars might wish it so.”

– Erin Morgenstein, The Starless Sea

TALK ABOUT A ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTIONS. This book is the Smiler of fantasy novels. Reading this book involved a fair share of screaming, laughing and smiling through tears – I may have become slightly too invested in some of the characters. Preferably, there would be a bit more focus on developing Zachary’s personality (and his reason for staying in this weird library. Or for falling in love with someone he had never even held a full conversation with) but it was brilliant all the same.

I read this book at the same time as my friend; which was a really cool experience to have someone going through the same kind of emotions as you and discussing what you thought would happen. There was a lot to discuss. From the plot to all the characters and Morgenstern’s beautiful description, I couldn’t (can’t) get enough.

I loved the world building, characters and plot; whilst I’m not entirely satisfied with the final ending, this was an amazing book. I hovered over 3 stars (and honestly 6 if that was an option) but I think it’s a solid 4.5. I’ve got The Night Circus by the same author in my Book Deposit basket and I can’t wait to read it! Fingers crossed it’s as beautiful as The Starless Sea.

Published by Hundreds&Thousands

I’m a teenager from Manchester, and a proud Hufflepuff. I like oversized jumpers, indie music you’ve probably not heard of, and books. Honestly, any books I can get my hands on but my personal favourites are fantasy, mystery or your classic teenage romance (it’s ironic I know – but you can’t really go wrong with ‘A Fault in Our Stars’)! I’m always being told to go and ‘be active’ or something instead of sitting in my room reading and listening to the Smiths, but honestly I don’t see the point. Why would I want to go for a run when I could be reading Rainbow Rowell or Good Omens. And it’s Morrisey for god’s sake. So, I decided to do something with the growing piles of books in my room… and you’re reading the product! It’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be and I really enjoy it – and I hope you do too. I try to write a review after I’ve read the book each week every Saturday, but no promises! The aim is hundreds and thousands of books (see what I did there?) but I’m not quite there. Yet.

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