Genres: Fantasy, M/M Romance
Zachary Erza Rawlins once found a door painted onto a wall and did not dare open it, despite his curiosity. He suspected but did not know back then that he had just missed his opportunity to visit the world of the Starless Sea. Many years later, he finds a strange little book in the library, and the stories in the book feel more real than they should: stories of a magical land, of myth and metaphors, of painted doors… and of a boy who did not open it. Startled to see himself on the pages of a book written long before he was born, Zachary enters the adventure of a lifetime, and has a second chance to see the Starless Sea, where he will become part of a story that began much, much before his time.
The Starless Sea is such a lovely, lush book to get lost in for hours and days on end. The writing is gorgeous, and if you loved Night Circus because of that and the love story, I think you’ll really enjoy this one, too! I was more charmed by the plot of Night Circus than of this book, but The Starless Sea is such a beautiful love letter to book lovers everywhere. Most of the story reads almost like a dream, something we have all wished was true at some point, and it makes the book feel familiar and bring such lovely, warm feelings.
There are sort of four books inside this one, as the stories of the three small books that Zachary finds on his way are also told in between chapters of the main story following Zachary himself. This makes for not such an easy reading in the beginning, as you’re navigating stories that don’t seem connected at all, but I assure you that persevering and reading on will make them all make sense. This is not really a spoiler, as it’s the kind of thing that’s hinted at throughout the whole book. After you get the rhythm of how the book tells the stories and have been more exposed to the world, it’s really interesting and not so hard to follow. Erin Morgenstern crafted and wove all those myths and stories and metaphors together masterfully. It’s truly a beautiful book. The stories are so poetic, and the world so rich and epic, containing a multitude of possibilities. You wonder about all the people who were ever a part of it.
It’s not a book to read in a hurry or with a tired mind, because you will love this story a lot more if you’re able to remember the details well and try to make the connections yourself. It’s almost an interactive book, where you need to actively remember things and put them together. And it’s such a pleasure when you figure out what that particular story referred to, and the next, and the next. Which I think is what the author intended anyway, given how many times the expression “choose your own adventure” is mentioned in the story. And so, so many mentions to books.
I found the story a little bit too whimsical and absurd at times for my taste (I’m awfully practical, even with my fantasy reads), but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. If you love fairy tales, this is such a beautiful, romantic read. I think this matches well with fans of This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.