The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

This is a mesmerising, fantastical book about our stories and endings, with just a touch of magic thrown in for good measure.

Are you lost or are you exploring?
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.
You are invited to join Zachary on the starless sea: the home of storytellers, story-lovers and those who will protect our stories at all costs.

Yes, yes, I know, we shouldn’t use the m-word – in fact, this book actively discourages against it. And yet, how else do we describe the enchanting happenings of this book? This is a book that will really capture your imagination, with descriptions of places and people I could barely imagine by myself. The boundaries between the real world, imagination and story telling are blurred in this book, which helps to build a truly spellbinding world.

The writing in this book is absolutely amazing – I haven’t read fantasy in a long long time, and I forgot what excellent world building there is in this genre. The descriptions were so beautiful and the concept alone was astounding. Morgenstern was such an incredible storyteller, and really the heart of this book is about storytelling. Everywhere this book turns there are stories, stories with beginnings or endings, both or neither – they link together while also being separate. It’s so clever, I can hardly find the words to describe it.

The characters in this are excellent as well of course. All the characters are fully formed, with layers of personality and stories. This book is so obviously Zachary’s story that there is no doubt that he would follow the doors and stories he finds. It’s a story of destiny and fate, but also one of uncertainty as there is no clear ending in sight throughout this book. Nothing is set in stone and every door holds new possibilities. The other characters, from Mirabel to Dorian to the Keeper, are all intriguing and provide new stories for this book. There is so much to discover and understand.

Something I really liked about this book, and the genre as well, was that it forced me to slow down my reading pace. I’m used to reading so much crime and thriller and I’m so used to those genres that I read them very quickly. As I wasn’t used to fantasy and there was so much to take in and appreciate, I was forced to read at a slower pace which therefore meant I was able to fully enjoy and revel in this book. The book in itself was an experience and a journey.

This has made me want to expand my reading horizons further – it’s full of beautiful and mesmerising descriptions with wonderful characters who never do what we expect. Everything that happens is unexpected and fantastical and I truly loved it. The ending was just perfect, with a really clever and intricate link to the beginning of the book and a character I had pretty much forgotten about.

I loved this, and if you want something gorgeously intricate and spellbinding, then of course this is the book for you.

The Starless Sea
Erin Morgenstern
Vintage, 5th November 2019

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