reading list

The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Starless Sea

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Publisher: Harvill Secker, Penguin Random House

Published Date: 5 November, 2019

Length: 498 pages

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adult, Magical Realism

Rating: 5/5

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 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.


“A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun.”

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? This book is probably too hyped up and yet not quite hyped enough. With The Night Circus, I fell in love with the writing however I did have a few issues with it. I am not going to go into them here but let’s just say that it’s like Morgenstern got into my head and took the things I had issues with and improved them to such a degree that I am in awe.

“A reading major, that’s what he wants. No response papers, no exams, no analysis, just the reading.”

It’s a story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, who’s a media student that finds a book in the uni library and finds a part of his life is described in the book and from there, things start to happen to him that are beyond his wildest dreams. It is a story of how Zachary discovers a whole another world but it is also more than that and as you read on, you start to see how much of the love storytelling bleeds into this one. The book is a sort of portal fantasy but not quite, there’s a love story that’s wrapped in a love letter to stories and storytelling. As I keep saying, it’s a story within a story within a story. I don’t think I can explain the plot of the book without spoiling the book but I think that this is the sort of book one should go into knowing as little as possible.

“For those who feel homesick for a place they’ve never been to. Those who seek even if they do not know what (or where) it is that they are seeking. Those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.”

It is atmospheric and immersive, it is a comfort read and has a quiet magic of its own without being too obvious about it. This is not a book you read solely for characters or plot, it is a book you go to because you simply love stories and gorgeous writing. The format of the book really worked for me because I was not expecting the book to be split into six parts and to be given so many stories within the story that is all about Zachary and his quest. We get short stories within the book and boy are they super interesting. The way Zachary gets to know about them and we get to read them almost side by side makes it feel like we are with Zachary as he discovers this amazing, hidden world. The short stories are just so wonderfully written that they could be published as fairytales and it would be a bestseller.

“Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.”

The threads of the plot, the way characters are revealed and the sheer level of depth and thought put into every small and big character, I am just in love. I do admit that some of the things become too ambitious for the novel and it might be a tipping point for many a reader. However the characters and the plot are parts of the reason I ended up loving this book. Even the characters we think are secondary or tertiary end up being important in their own way and I loved that.

“We are all stardust and stories.”

There are older characters, there are powerful women, there’s a beautiful and sweet romance. I think this book has a little bit of everything a reader needs to be enchanted. Just an ode to storytelling that mesmerized me but I can also see why it might not be for everyone. The things I loved about the book are also some of the reasons people didn’t like this book for and in their own way, those points are completely valid. There are times when the plot lost the track or the short stories might become too much for the actual plot or where the suspension of belief is taken to an exaggerating level. I understand the criticism but I truly ended up loving it. So give it a chance, who knows which side of the spectrum you end up on?


Also there are so many quotes that I find completely relatable as a reader that I had to share them. They are not spoilery in any way, at least I hope they are not.

“Having a physical reaction to a lack of book is not unusual.”

“Reading a book four times in one day is perfectly normal behavior.”

“It doesn’t look like anything special, like it contains an entire world, though the same could be said of any book.”

“For those who feel homesick for a place they’ve never been to. Those who seek even if they do not know what (or where) it is that they are seeking. Those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.”

3 thoughts on “The Starless Sea

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