The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Summary from NetGalley:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.
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 of 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.
ARC provided by Doubleday Books via NetGalley for an honest review.
Wow, this book! It is very hard for me to wrap up my thoughts and feelings about it in this review, but I will try.
This book is just brilliant in its writing and storyline. The writing is just exquisite and beautiful. The descriptions are otherworldly and I found myself rereading many passages just to hear them in my head again. The characters are very well done as well, with many of them being very memorable.
The structure of the book is a little hard to get into. It starts off with some chapters that are almost like short stories and don’t appear to connect in any way. These short vignettes continue throughout the book, but are interspersed with longer chapters told from mostly Zachary’s point of view, but some other characters as well. You can’t tell right away how all of these various little stories will come into play in the big overall plot, but by the end you are amazed at how the stories were all woven together into the most marvelous book I have read this year.
I liked Zachary from the start. He is a quiet and shy young man, who wants to just hang out in his room and read everything. But once he reads that one book with his story in it, he can’t let it go and that is what sets him off on the adventure of a life time. He doesn’t quite know what to make of the whole situation he finds himself in, but he doesn’t let anything stop him once he gets going.
Dorian was a bit harder to warm up too. He starts off as a bit of a villain, but eventually you come to see that he is just a victim of his own story. I ended up liking him and seeing how he felt about Zachary and the hidden world they find themselves helped with that. But the end of the book I was rooting for that happy ending for the two of them.
Mirabel was a fun character. She was feisty and always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else. She was always getting Zachary out of trouble and was sort of his guide through most of the book.
The setting of the library was amazingly well done. I often felt like this place really exists. I loved that there were cats that seemed to live there and the way things just seem to appear when Zachary or any character needs them makes it almost seem like a sentient being. The pacing wasn’t exactly fast, but it never felt slow. The story was always exciting enough to keep you reading into the night.
My only negative comment was maybe the ending. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it was just a bit open ended and didn’t really feel like the story was over. But that could just be me, and I might change my mind when I read it again, and this is a book I will definitely reread, perhaps more than once.
This book is a must read if you liked the Night Circus or even if you didn’t. If you like books about stories with in stories then you must pick this one up.