It was time for me to finally read an Erin Morgenstern book, and while I think most people steer towards The Night Circus, I decided to start with The Starless Sea.
When Zachary stumbles upon a library book that detailed parts of his life in the middle of other fairy-tales, he follows the clues, sending him on a dangerous quest. His quest includes secret socities, masquerade balls, and a magical underground library labryinth he must save.
The Starless Sea was a prosaic fantasy, probably fitting somewhere between the range of fairy-tale and magical realism. It was a story filled with stories and about the art of storytelling. Honestly, it was kind of confusing, but I think it was supposed to be. The story didn’t go in complete chronological order, but that was part of the fun, trying to fit the puzzle pieces together before the narrative did. After all, parts of the story were lost in time as were some characters.
Because of the way the narrative is drawn, not everyone will like or understand the book. I think the best audience for The Starless Sea would be true bibliophiles who are aware of the nature of fairy-tales and metaphors and storytelling. Readers who enjoy lengthy prose and narratives that weave together.
A lot of the characters belonged to the fairy-tales within the story, and that made it all the more interesting. Haven’t you ever wanted a storybook character to come to life? Or better yet–to jump into that story? That’s essentially what Zachary did.
I think one of the most compelling characters was Eleanor. When we were introduced to her is when I started to get real Alice in Wonderland vibes from the story–you had rabbits, another world underground, cats, and truly mad characters with things that made no sense. This made the narrative nostalgic but also new in a way.
The main character, Zachary, was likable, but nothing special–we could probably all see ourselves as him. A nerdy, introverted bookworm who stumbled upon and thus became a part of something bigger.
I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into this book. Because of the lengthy prose and the overuse of metaphors, I put off reading different chapters. Something changed when I hit the middle–more things in the novel were at stake and I became much more invested in the overarching story. I do think the book could probably have cut off, like, 100 pages, but I still enjoyed the read and found the writing style beautiful, if a bit heavy-handed.
Looking at other reviews, it seems like people either loved or hated this book. Luckily, I think I’m the former. I thought it was incredible how all the characters’ stories sort of melded together. If you are into pretty prose and fairy-tales and solving puzzles, you might like this book.
Overall, I’d give it four stars.