Originally published: Nov 2019 (Paperback 6 Aug 2020)
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published by: Vintage
Length: 512 pages
Reading dates: 7-13 August 2020
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.
I’m finding this a really hard review to write. To begin with, I absolutely loved this story. When college student and son of a fortune teller, Zachary finds an old and mysterious book in the university library, we share the magical tales within with him as he reads them. The most surprising story to him is of a young boy who finds a door painted on a wall in an alley, a door the boy knows deep down will open if he tries. The reason this is surprising to Zachary is that this boy was him. How did a book, much older than he is have this event in it’s pages?
This was a really magical story with a wonderful cast of characters. Zachary especially is a likeable protagonist and I also loved his friendship with fellow student Kat. I also loved the idea of doors that can take you to other worlds and I have to say Morgenstern’s writing is lyrical and beautiful.
Morgenstern has an amazing imagination and weaves together a complex and magical fantasy world but it just didn’t do it for me. Hand’s up, I will admit I am not a lover of this style of fantasy as much as I keep trying to like it. It is a long book at over 500 pages (and the text is pretty small) and by about two thirds of the way through, I was struggling to focus. I liked it enough to finish but I must admit, towards the end I didn’t really have a clue what was going on.
I wanted to love this and I have a feeling if I read it at a different time, in a different frame of mind, I would enjoy it. So by no means, let me put you off reading The Starless Sea. I have seen many wonderful gushing reviews for this book, but I’m sad to say it just wasn’t really for me.
Thank you so much to Tandem Collective for inviting me to be part of the Instagram readalong and to Vintage for a copy of the book.
About the author:
Erin Morgenstern (born July 8, 1978) is an American multimedia artist and the author of two fantasy novels. The Night Circus (2011) was published in more than a dozen languages by 2013 and won the annual Locus Award for Best First Novel. She is a 2012 recipient of the Alex Awards. Her second book, The Starless Sea, was published in 2019.