I’ll start this review by saying that I loved this book. I read the first half of it so quickly and couldn’t put it down when I picked it up. I kept telling myself that I’d stop reading and go to bed ‘at the end of this chapter’ but before I knew it, I’d read 150 pages in my first sitting! I made some notes on my phone while I was reading this book which will hopefully make writing the review a little easier.
The Blurb: 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.
The Story: I loved this story so much. There were stories woven in amongst the main narrative and I loved it – it was like a book in a book. I loved reading little excerpts from the different stories that Zachary is reading, it made everything come to life and was quite a nice way of incorporating the books into the main story. I loved seeing parallels between the two, it’s something I always find quite interesting in books. This book was full of magic, strange characters, and distant lands, all of which came to life beautifully. This is the first Erin Morgenstern book that I’ve read but now I need to finally read The Night Circus (it’s been on my bookshelf for about 7 years now, it’s about time I read it) as I’m eager to see what Morgenstern’s other work is like. I’d only heard great things about The Starless Sea, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The Characters: The characters in this book were excellent. I loved Zachary (never Zach) as our main portagonist: he was intelligent, interesting, and just seemed like an all-round nice person. I loved discovering more of the story through his eyes, and figuring things out with him. One of the other characters that I loved was Zachary’s friend Kat. She was such a lovely person throughout and I loved reading about them both. Mirabel was an excellent character. She was definitely the most mysterious out of the whole cast that we meet, but she was excellently eccentric! Dorian was another excellent character. I loved seeing the way he interacted with Zachary and Mirabel. I loved seeing the way the characters relationships with each other changed throughout the book. I enjoyed being introduced to the strange band of characters who were engaged with The Starless Sea and its mystery. They were all very mysterious whose lives we never got to see fully, only the parts they wanted to share, but as the book went on I grew to enjoy reading about them more and more.
The Pacing: I think the pacing in this book was spot on. I liked the chapter lengths and the alternating chapters between Zachary’s “real life” and the different books and stories. I think this helped me to really become invested in the story as no chapter felt like it dragged too much, I very much wanted to see what as going to happen next and couldn’t put it down until I knew.
The World: The world was so interesting. The Starless Sea itself was such an intriguing idea and (no spoilers) I was fascinated by everything that the world held. I loved reading about Zacahry exploring different parts of this new place and discovering new things. There was so much mystery surrounding this book and I liked how not everything was revealed all at once. We got little snippets of information that were relevant/useful to us throughout which were great and I really liked how certain things were mentioned multiple times throughout, like the pirate.
Final Thoughts: Overall I really enjoyed this book. I thought the idea was brilliant and I loved how everything played out. Everything was really nicely done and I enjoyed how everything ended. There was an air of mystery throughout the book, right up until the final page, and I loved it. I’m glad I’ve finally read an Erin Morgenstern book and will definitely be reading The Night Circus at some point. Overall I rated this book 5/5 stars (unsurprisingly) and would recommend it if you enjoy fantasy books with a lot of mystery.
So that’s the first book ticked off my 20 books I want to read in 2020 list! I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more of Morgenstern’s work.
Have you read this book yet? What did you think? Le me know!