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“Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the pages become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are.”
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 don’t even know how to explain my love for this story. It’s like it’s a part of my soul that has always been there, but I’ve only just discovered. Seriously, I’ve been staring at the screen trying to think of what to say and all my brain has is, “I LOVE THIS BOOK!”
With this novel, Morgenstern has cemented my love of portal fantasies. The Starless Sea gives me Neverwhere vibes— and you all know how much I love Neverwhere. That’s not to say the story is the same, only the atmosphere is. Oh, and the fact that they’re both portal fantasies.
I especially love how this novel incorporates fairy tales. Not only do we get to read original fairy tales, but they are intrinsically tied to Zachary’s story. In a way, The Starless Sea is a book designed for book lovers.
These characters are wonderful, vivid and built to exist only in this world of Morgenstern’s creation. I’m especially fond of Zachary and his big, curious heart. He is the latest character I’ve adopted as my son.
You may have heard that this story is gay. Well, you heard correctly. Zachary is a gay man and has a romance with Dorian. It’s not a major part of the story, but it is very sweet. On top of that, Zachary is black. As far as I can tell, the representation in this novel is very good.
The writing is lyrical and beautiful. I copied down so many quotes because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to use for this review. It was hard not to choose them all, but I think I picked the right one.
The Starless Sea is a wonderful, magical book. I kept having to put it down just to clutch it to my heart, that’s how much I loved it. There’s something so nostalgic about stepping into this world, like I’ve been here before. I knew I would like this book, but I didn’t expect that it would become a new favorite. I would pay good money to force Morgenstern to write a sequel. Oh, and spoiler alert: this book will be on my 2019 Best List.
Have you read The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern? Share your thoughts in the comments!