The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea

Book - 2019
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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 of 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.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2019]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780385541213
Branch Call Number: MORGENST
Characteristics: 498 pages ; 25 cm


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From Library Staff

Author of The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's voice is very stylized and dreamlike, but also utterly convincing. In this tale, Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a dedicated college student who once walked away from a painted door he thought about opening. Thereafter, the undiscovered possibilities have va... Read More »

From the critics

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Jul 22, 2020

Really enjoyed this book. Night Circus was fantastic and I was sure Erin M’s second novel would not disappoint and I was right.
Give this fantasy novel a shot.

Jun 23, 2020

Loved it

I truly don’t know how I feel about this one. My first read of 2020 and I feel like I’m stunned into a kind of awed stupor, because I can’t figure out exactly what just happened and what I just read. Going for 3 stars for the pretty, wildly vivid writing. I just...can’t seem to latch on to much else that I actually enjoyed here.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins once made the decision not to open a door, and now, a grad student studying story and video games, he stumbles across an unmarked book in his campus library. Drawn to its pages, he discovers that he is in it, that his past self is discussed in its pages. He is soon drawn into a world of mysterious doorways, rogue assassins, subterranean libraries, and seas made of substances other than water - but how? How can it be real? For a man who loves stories more than reality, he should know: everything is real because everything is a story.

This sounds so cool, and for the first 100-ish pages, even as far as 200, I was captivated. Who are these people fighting for or against the Harbor on the Starless Sea? Who is Zachary, who is Dorian, who are Mirabel and Simon and Eleanor and do they actually exist?

But then...I got frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely stunning in terms of writing. Erin Morgenstern is truly a master of language. This is a love letter to reading and stories and escapism disguised as a novel. For those of us who grew up in worlds like Hogwarts and Narnia and Middle Earth, it’s perfectly logical to think that a character would stumble into one of them and never want to leave.

But I genuinely want to know how this is 500 pages when basically nothing happens. And then when it seems like something might actually be solid, grabbable, like a life raft in a sea of honey, it all just evaporates. Where is the plot? What are we reading for? Why is everything so complicated?

It’s like as readers, we’re just supposed to go along for the ride with this one, and for a while, I could. I didn’t hate this, and I know people find meaning in stories like this one because of the experiences they have reading them. But for me, the ethereal nature of the whole thing went beyond fun Alice in Wonderland frivolity to nothing making sense.

I have taken way too many English classes. I can see this becoming a classic, one of those books celebrated for its use of language and its extended metaphors and deeper meaning. I can see it, but I can’t say that I necessarily enjoyed it. I see its merits, but it’ll be one that I will say I’m glad to have read...and leave on the shelf for the foreseeable future.

OPL_RubyJ May 05, 2020

I was excited to read "The Starless Sea" because I enjoyed "The Night Circus" so much. This book achieves the same great sense of place and fantastical atmosphere. It is a story on stories and the wonders they hold. There is also an underground library which is just fabulous.

May 05, 2020

Losing oneself in a good book is the theme of The Starless Sea, an intricately plotted adventure fantasy that celebrates stories, storytellers, and imagination. There are so many threads and layers and metaphors and clues and time shifts, it is hard to keep them straight, but they all come together at the conclusion, which is just another beginning. And yes, it would make a wonderful video game, one of the puzzle and exploration kind.

Apr 23, 2020

what was this about > endless ...finished to finish it... Do not bother!

Apr 18, 2020

I have a tendency to devour books. Read til life gets in the way. This book however, asks to be savored. I enjoyed the the writing, the imagery and the story.
If you enjoyed the Night Circus, you will not be disappointed!

sjpl_DanaLibrariana Apr 06, 2020

I was a big fan of "The Night Circus" so I have been looking forward to reading Erin Morgenstern's new novel, The Starless Sea. It accomplishes it's goal of feeling as if you're going through a video game story with vivid imagery, character story lines, choices with consequences, surreal locations and fantastical beings. For me, it is was an exquisite escape from the coronavirus ridden realities of our current world.

Apr 04, 2020

The most confusing thing I have ever enjoyed.

Mar 13, 2020

Very bizarre & convoluted story, interspersed with fairytales, that all very bizarrely wind up being related. Wondering if the idea of the various doors was inspired by “Being Erica” - that’s what it reminded me of, so if you enjoy this story, you might want to check out that Canadian tv series.
It took me a long time to read this, because I kept having to go back & re-read previous chapters to figure out what was going on. There are very few unimportant details. You might want to start a list of characters & relationships.

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Add a Quote
PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"She gave me an opaque plastic cup identical to the one I'd abandoned inside but with better bourbon in it, on the rocks.

I accepted because mysterious ladies offering bourbon under the stars is very much my aesthetic."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"But he's hardly looking at the book and barely eating his noodles. He sucks at subtlety. He's watching me write. Eyeing up my journal like he's trying to figure out how he's going to snag it when I'm not looking.

I'm always looking now.

You will pry this Adventure Time notebook from my cold dead hands, ya ding-dong."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"They asked if I thought he would have done something- like jumped-off-a-bridge something- and I said I didn't think so, but I also think most of us are two steps away from jumping off something most of the time and you never know if the next day is going to push you in one direction or another."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"'A book is an interpretation,' she says. 'You want a place to be like it was in the book but it's not a place in a book it's just words. The place in your imagination is where you want to go and that place is imaginary. This is real,' she places her hand on the wall in front of them. The stone is cracked near her fingers, a fissure running down the side and disappearing into a column. 'You could write endless pages but the words will never be the place.'"

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"'We've been having adventures, Rhyme,' Mirabel says and the girl frowns. 'There was a daring rescue and bondage and tea and a fire and two-thirds of us got poisoned. Also, this is Zachary, Zachary this is Rhyme.'"

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"A reading major, that's what he wants. No response papers, no exams, no analysis, just the reading."

IndyPL_MarianneK Oct 22, 2019

"To Seeking" "To Finding"


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