Hi everyone! Today, I have the very difficult task of reviewing an incredible book by one of my favourite authors. I genuinely don’t know where to start. The Starless Sea was a complete joy from start to finish and I know I won’t be able to do it justice in this review – but if I can make it coherent, I’ll count that as a win!
Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.
A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.
“We are all stardust and stories…”
The Starless Sea is not just a book. It is an experience. Morgenstern is not afraid to divert away from her main plot and it felt wonderful as a reader to get lost in the conglomeration of stories she presented and to try and figure out how everything connected. Upon finishing, there were still things I was unsure of but the beauty is that this is a book which will only improve upon rereading; clues and connections that were missed the first time will fall into place and things will become even clearer.
I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I adore Morgenstern’s writing. The Night Circus is one of my favourite books and for years I thought it was going to be the only offering Morgenstern would bless us with. So you can imagine my excitement and soaring expectations when I heard about The Starless Sea. I can totally see why it won’t work for all readers; it’s flowery and perhaps a bit pretentious at times. It jumps around from one thing to another with seemingly no connection. But if you stick with it, you will be rewarded. The Starless Sea is a love letter to words and language, and the magic of stories. And when you realise how everything connects, it is nothing short of wondrous.
Morgenstern’s world building was exactly as I have come to expect: pure magic. I will take all of the purple prose, thank you, when this is the way it is used. I was enthralled while reading, ready to pack my bags and go off in search of a door to that wonderful underground library. I think any book lover will feel a connection to this story, even if they don’t necessarily gel with its style or execution.
Just like The Ten Thousand Doors of January which I read recently, this book filled me with that nostalgic feeling of childhood wonder, where you believe anything is possible and magic may be just around any corner. And that is all I ever want in a book. I cannot accurately convey how exquisite this book is and I hope you will all go and experience it for yourselves if you haven’t already!
Have you read The Starless Sea yet? Is it on your list? Let me know in the comments! x