Title/Author: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
In a nutshell (Publisher): 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.
For all wanderers and dreamers alike, this book will take you to mysterious worlds hidden behind painted doors, seas made of confetti, and stories within stories that’ll take you beyond your wildest imagination!Tweet
Zach found a mysterious book, Sweet Sorrows, with his story in it and it was unfinished. On the back cover, he discovered three symbols inscribed onto it – a sword, a key and a bee. Curious, he researched about it and stumbled across a picture of a woman wearing a layered necklace with the same bee and key and sword that resembled the symbols on the book, taken at a literary ball in 2014 – Algonquin Hotel Annual Literary Masquerade.
Following those ‘clues’, he went to the ball and danced with a stranger dressed as Max from Wild Things. Then he was led into a room by a man where he was told a love story about Time and Fate. After it all ended, Dorian, who was the storyteller, asked Zach to meet him at the New York public library.
When they met at the library, Dorian told Zach there were people who wanted his book, Sweet Sorrows, but he will only return it to him (Zach didn’t know his book had been taken from him and that Dorian had got it back for him) if he’d help Dorian retrieve his book, The Age of Fable or Beauties of Mythology.
After retrieving and returning the book to Dorian, Zach entered a door painted on a wall that led him to an ancient library hidden deep below the surface of the earth. Thus, began his journey in search for The Starless Sea.
This is a book about books about stories about stories, interspersing with one another, Zach’s being the main, interspersing with stories of the pirate and the girl, Dorian, Fate and Time, Simon and Eleanor, Mirabel and the Keeper, the Moon and the Innkeeper and a few more others. I enjoyed them all, and seeing how they all came together was so satisfying and beautiful.
Morgenstern is so good at painting rich and vivid imageries which I absolutely love, such as the literary ball where magical literary concoctions were created, tiny stories on scraps of paper were typed and handed out to guests that past by, and small cakes frosted with poems were served; an underground library that had doors leading to enchanting worlds and halls filled with books from floor to ceiling; a crypt that had bodies wrapped in ribbons of memories, and seas covered in confetti. I wanted to get lost in those places forever. Oh, and Strand bookstore in New York made a casual appearance too! And Starbucks!
Kat and Mirabel were definitely my favorite characters – both bold, outspoken and headstrong young ladies. Although I must say, both Kat and Zach sounded younger than 24 years old, and Kat felt like she had some leftover teenage angst. Still love her though! Eleanor the explorer was another fascinating character – strong, independent and adaptive to her surroundings. Props to her for her innovative, interactive maps – one that changed with change – from directions to buildings and landmarks. Most impressive and creative!
I also loved the beautiful story(ies) of Time and Fate, and how they were connected to other stories in the book. It made me wonder what Morgenstern’s storyboard looked like – the pictures, thread and stitches, the links, and the branches of branches, while sprinkling her work of magic and charm throughout.
If you pay attention to its words and the little details, you’d be rewarded at the end. I think Kat summed this book best: “Epic branching story that doesn’t stick to a single genre or one set path and turns into different stories but it’s all the same story.”
I can see why this book didn’t work for some readers who have read it, even those who enjoyed ‘The Night Circus’, which the author might have already predicted when one of the characters said, “A game or a book that has personal meaning to me might be boring to you, or vice versa. Stories are personal, you relate or you don’t.”
But if you, like me, love dreamy, whimsical stories, then suspend disbelief, grab a copy and set sail across The Starless Sea and breathe the haunting air…May you be enchanted by its magic and endless breathtaking stories…
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!
Last but not least, thank you for stopping by! May the power of good reads be with you always!