Synopsis: 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. (Goodreads)
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: 3 stars
I have been meaning to read The Night Circus for years, and when I began to notice release-date news of The Starless Sea I decided to give it a shot first because...a story about books? Yes, please. I've read that Erin Morgenstern is the type of writer you either love or hate, but, I have to say that I don't think fall into either of those two categories.
I didn't love The Starless Sea, I didn't hate it either. But I did like it.
The build up was so good, so exciting, so nicely developed and I was right there for the ride alongside Z every step of the way. The idea of a library—harbor--that houses a world of stories is so beautiful that it is a dream come true for any lover of stories. And the second the lead walks through that door, I couldn't help but feel anything other than excitement and delight.
But the character development is very weak, the mythology of the story gets extremely confusing, and if the reader is not okay with the fact that nothing is clearly explained at any point throughout this story then they are bound to dislike it. You get the gist of it, you have an intuitive sense of things, you almost grasp it... And then the floor falls through at the Heart of the Harbor and the dive into Wonderland goes deeper and more confusing—so to speak.
The second part of the novel, for me, was a huge jumble mashed together that made me feel as if I were on some form of drug-induced state while I read it. It was still enjoyable, because the fairy-tale mood of this story is extremely appealing. But it is, nonetheless, very meandering, and the crossroads of Time and Fate at the end—along with the “happily-ever after” that Dorian and Z have—leave you at an impasse.
I will, say, however, that I do greatly appreciate the fact that this story does not end. Not really, not despite the fact that the novel concludes. And that was probably my favorite part of The Starless Sea: a story is endless even when it isn't.