The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Book Review)

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Publication Date: November 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Summary: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

My thoughts:

It’s difficult to sum up a novel that has made a home in your heart and mind and will reside there for a lifetime. I began The Starless Sea, thinking it would be another whimsical and atmospheric novel written by Erin Morgenstern but quickly fell head over heels for its likeness to The Shadow of the Wind, another favorite novel of mine.

Both of these stories share a deep love for words and the stories created in our minds. And, the love for books and how they can change us forever is at the forefront of each novel, but The Starless Sea stands on its own, in terms of the uniqueness of it all.

This story is a slow-moving tale that unfurls before your eyes in a way that you want to savor and take your time with. I let myself be whisked up by this book and really let every page and passage seep into me because I knew every moment was vital to the storyline, and I didn’t want to miss a word of Morgenstern’s atmospheric and vivid writing.

While some may not be able to get into this story because it’s so languid and packed with intricate fairytales and descriptions that took me a month to get through, I really enjoyed taking my time with this story and letting it move at its own relaxed pace because I knew it would become a favorite of mine within the first 40 pages I read.

One of my favorite details of this book is the amount of fairytale-like stories woven into the narrative. Morgenstern continually plays with the idea of what is reality and what isn’t, how video-games are structured compared to novels, and gives fantastical reasonings and happenings to further her story in a way that is utterly her own. I am such a big fan of her continual use of symbolism throughout the novel through the use of feathers, hearts, bees, swords, etc. Those elements were intertwined into the story seamlessly and always held importance which is a small detail that I just appreciate a lot.

What impressed me the most was when I fell out of the story, at one point, and realized this was written in the 3rd person. I was about half-way through the novel when I finally noticed it was written from a point of view that was my least favorite to read. Usually, I have a very, very tough time reading and getting invested into a 3rd person narration because I feel so separated from the story and characters and I find it tedious to run along with. But, once I started riding along with The Starless Sea, reading it was effortless. The writing is so easy to fall into, and I give Morgenstern kudos for managing to make me enjoy a 3rd person narrative, which happens once in a blue moon.

Another minor detail I really enjoyed was the number of cats in this novel and how adorable they were. They felt like characters of their own, and just the quirkiness of this novel, the people in it, the world Morgenstern created, and the fairytales she spun together were something all of its own and left me in awe of someone’s ability to create vast worlds within the pages of a book. This is most definitely a favorite read of 2019 and of all time. If you’re a fan of The Shadow of the Wind and Laini Taylor’s atmospheric writing, this is the book for you. It’s so beautifully written and is sure to capture the hearts of readers for years to come. I cannot recommend it enough. 

Book Info: Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Have you read any books by Erin Morgenstern? What do you think about them? Also, if you’d like to see specific details in my book reviews that you think I may be missing, please let me know!