#bookreview The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern published by Harvill Secker on 5 November 2019


Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a strange book hidden in the library 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 a subterranean 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, searching for understanding, both of the mysterious book and his own life.

My reading experience:

This is a pleasantly unique story that has an older story woven between chapters. The magical prose make it easy to read with readers signposting at the top of chapters and repetitive name mentioning. This tool served to embed the characters and story. At times I wasn’t sure which was the true story but each turn of the page evoked the sense of touching books, libraries, magic and cats! The one thing I was certain about while reading was the story of Fate and Time – the author dealt with these in a fairytale way, imagining them as humans, as characters, and the journeys they might take. All of this of course is a pathway for our main protagonist Zachary Ezra Rawlings, who finds a book and goes in search of the meaning of his life.

Themes: libraries, secret worlds, magical doors, books, societies, destiny, Fate, Time

I highly recommend this magical, fanciful tale from Erin Morgenstern. The paperback was published in August 2020 by Vintage.

See my review of The Night Circus.

The book design for the limited edition hardcopy has the three symbols of the bee, sword and key on its fore-edge – beautiful and unique.


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