THE STARLESS SEA
Written by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Doubleday Books, November 5th, 2019
My star rating – 4.5 stars
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. Find it on Goodreads
What can I EVEN say about this book??! The synopsis pretty much covers it. A boy named Zachary is in school for media, specifically gaming, when he finds a book in the library that has no author and somehow has HIM as a character in the book. It sets into motion this strange series of events that will suck you into one of the most well crafted stories I’ve ever read! But if you’re looking for a way for me to hook you then, here it goes – Imagine Alice in Wonderland (with more books), mixed with Every Heart A Doorway……. Interested??
This isn’t a book that someone can explain to you. If someone was to recount this story you would probably say “That sounds cool” and you would never understand the obsession people have with it. This book needs to be read (or listened to) for you to experience all the emotions and atmosphere. Her writing is so immersive! You have no choice but to be sucked up into the story, the characters lives, the world, the atmosphere, and the whimsy of it all. It’s not really a ‘plot forward’ story. This is more about the exploration of the characters, the world of the Starless Sea, and stories. This is a book for those who love stories. Because her writing is so immersive, it was quick to create an obsession. I NEEDED to know how he ended up in a book that was created before he was born. I NEEDED to know what was with the bees, keys, and swords, and I NEEDED to know what and where the Starless Sea was! The story slowed in the middle a bit but that’s when the emotions of the characters found the time to really hit home.
The format of this book was really something interesting. We follow the timeline of Zachary as he finds the book, searches for clues, and makes his way to the Starless Sea. But, every other chapter, we got a short story from the very book that started it all – Sweet Sorrows. The short stories are all similar in tone and atmosphere – some are connected while others don’t seem to be. Either way you feel like they’re all trying to tell the same tale and take you in the same direction. They’re not all connected but they are some how….. like all the pieces of the puzzle are there but the answers are just out of reach. These stories somehow related to Zachary and where he is and where he’s meant to be. They felt classic, ancient, modern, magical, and timeless.
If you get the chance to listen to the audiobook I HIGHLY recommend it! I went back and forth between physically reading and listening and, I have to be honest, the audiobook was probably the best. Since this book already feels like someone is reading you a bedtime story, it was nice to sit back and let someone actually tell that story to me! It was like adult story time of someone who could be your friend mixed up with fantastical stories that your parents might have heard when they were children. The short story narrator was my favourite!! He read it with such feeling and passion. His voice would speed up and slow when the stories rose and fell. He would also whisper low at times, making it feel intimate and mysterious – I had goosebumps every time I heard his voice!!
At this point you’re probably thinking that I couldn’t praise the book higher so why is it only 4.5 stars? The answer – the ending. I was totally fine going through this book with more questions than answers (which is RARE for me) because I knew that it would all be wrapped up in the end. Not the case. When I turned the last page I screamed out loud (excuse the language) “What the literal fuck was that?!” It was NOT the ending I was expecting. I made it through this whole book with my reality suspended high in the air just hoping that it would be brought down by an anchor of truth. But it was left wide open and the world/situation remained up to your interpretation. I was so mad at this at first! But, the more I sat with it, the more I could appreciate it. This is a story of endings and beginning – and every beginning is born from an ending. The ending followed through with that theme and ended it in such a way that the beginning was just starting to form….. the end. It followed the theme, it wrapped up story lines, and I understand why it ended the way it did……. but I don’t have to like it. I just wanted a little more.
Suspend your reality and get settled with a nice hot drink. As soon as you start this book you’re never going to want to stop! This isn’t going to be for everyone though. I have a felling there will be MANY polarizing thoughts on this!! In my case though….. I was hooked from chapter one and pulled into a world with a starless sea. And it was beautiful!
Until next time, happy reading!