Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, by Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Published: November 5, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

Pages: 498

Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world--a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

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 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.

Thoughts: Where to begin! I wanted to like this book, really I did. The beginning does a good job of sucking you in, but once everyone starts going into the stories that they read about themselves, it really loses some steam for me. Which is sad, because I really like The Night Circus, her previous book. In fact, I think I named it as one of my favorites of the year some time back.

It seems like a book I should like - all the aspects are there. A boy who loves reading and video games, and cats, and there's a mystery to solve. And while that's all well and good in the beginning, honestly it doesn't really feel like it goes anywhere. What is Zachary really learning here? How is he changing as a character? What is his goal?

The problem is, it feels like a lot of machinations from outside forces with his story, rather than him truly having choices and making his own decisions. Any time there was a mystery element, such as when Kat's story randomly came back into things (and I had to remind myself who that even was to be honest), things were great, I was into it. In fact, I was more into her chapters later on than the main story!

It took me ages to read. I'm not like a super quick reader because I really only read before bed and on lunch breaks currently, but I will tell you I read a 704 page book in a little over a month, and this one is 498 pages and took me about two months to get through, because I legit would keep falling asleep.

That's not to say the writing itself is bad. It's very descriptive and pretty and all of that, with a very cool fantastical world. But the plot, the story, the characters, things to actually cling to and make sense of, were just lacking for me. There just wasn't a lot of there there if that makes sense.

Have you read it? What do you think, am I crazy not to love this? Let me know in the comments!

Rating: 2.5/5

Buy on Amazon

What I'm Reading Next: The Toll by Neal Shusterman


  1. I had to force myself to finish this one. As I've marinated on it for a few weeks, I'm even more irritated with how much time I gave this book. The beautiful writing was not enough to redeem the completely missing plot and the most boring slate of characters I read in all of 2019. Biggest disappointment of the year, because I also loved Night Circus.

    1. Yeah I agree. I considered not finishing it as well, but was so close at that point I decided to just power through. Though it was basically two months on one book, which is ridiculous!