Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

I am having such a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. I’m just going to list it all out.

The Starless Sea was probably my most anticipated book of the year (I’m sure the same can be said for many of you, as well). In a year where most of my anticipated reads have left me terribly disappointed, I was super nervous to start it. However, I could tell right at the beginning that Morgenstern’s writing style was just as beautiful as I remembered it.

-The writing really was beautiful and magical and descriptive, all the things that helped make me fall in love with The Night Circus. There was just something missing for me, though. I think, despite how beautifully written it was, I never really got very invested in the story. It is a story within a story, within many stories. It’s hard to wrap my head around it and I’m not even going to try to explain it. The only parts I looked forward to were the chapters with Zachary Ezra Rawlins (his full name is used a lot). I kind of wanted to skim through all the other stories, but it didn’t take long to realize all the other stories were integral to the plot and you have to pay attention to them. Even if you don’t really understand some of them. Or maybe that’s just me?

-I did really like Zachary. I thought he was a very empathetic character and I was very interested to see what happened with him. However, he was the only character that I really cared about. Dorian was ok. Kat was ok, but seemed a little unnecessary? Allegra, Maribel, the Keeper, and the rest didn’t really do anything for me. I think my lack of connection with the characters kept me from having much of an emotional connection with the book.

-I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. It seemed a little too long at times and also not quite long enough. I didn’t care for the ending. I felt like I needed a little more “this is what happened to Zachary Ezra Rawlins” than what we got. I liked it, but not as much as The Night Circus and not as much as I was expecting to. However, I will definitely read whatever Morgenstern writes next, even if it takes another 8 years.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

15 thoughts on “Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

  1. I’ve been waiting for this review! I’m sorry it didn’t quite hit your expectations. I am very curious about this Zachary Ezra Rawlins now, though. I am planning on listening to this one. I have requested the audio format from my library. I’m going to go in with lower expectations now after reading your review.

  2. Pingback: November 2019 Recap | Stephanie's Book Reviews

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  4. I had this one out from the library, but it came right before Christmas and I just couldn’t get into it. I could tell from just the first couple of chapters that it was a book I needed to pay attention to, and I did not have that kind of time!! It was due back since it’s a new book, so I’m going to try and pick it up in a month or two. Hopefully I’ll be in the right frame of mind for it, since I definitely want to read this one.

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