Hey everybody! I’m here with my first book review of 2020! I already mentioned I had gotten Morgenstern’s sophomore novel over Christmas and I just became so sucked into it. I reviewed her first novel, The Night Circus, already so feel free to go check out that review. Now, I am incredibly excited to bring you this review as I stayed up way too late finishing this novel. Anyways, here’s my thoughts on The Starless Sea.
When he was a child, Zachary Ezra Rawlins saw a door with a bee, a key, and a sword painted on it. The door called to him, to something unknown. Years later, he find a book in his college library. The book contains fantastical stories of pirates, magical cities, mute acolytes, and…his childhood. The book also has the familiar symbols he saw on the door all of those years ago. Shocked, Zachary goes on a mission to find why he is in this book. He ends up at a masquerade party where he meets two enigmatic strangers, a pink-haired and intense painter named Mirabel, and a handsome and adventurous man named Dorian. The two lead Zachary into a mysterious and wondrous world full of books, parties, and magic. But the fate of this underground world hangs in the balance and it is up to Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian to learn the mysteries of the Starless Sea and figure out what they are willing to sacrifice in order to save this refuge.
When I read The Night Circus, I definitely fell in love with Morgenstern’s combination of whimsical, fairy tale-eque writing and solid, adult centric themes. The Starless Sea delivered that and more. I absolutely loved the very structure of this book. The chapters alternate between the main story and fairy tale side stories that all tie together in the end. She mixes descriptive, classic prose and the stylistic writing one would expect in fables. It is initially a little confusing to read but it ties together in such a satisfying way. The mechanics or “magic” of the world is just specific and just vague enough at the same time. Morgenstern sets it up so you don’t find yourself wanting to question the magic of the Starless Sea and the Harbor. The characters, in the main plot and side plot, all feel fleshed out even in their magical worlds. I loved Zachary as a main character. This book came to me at a perfect time as he is a struggling grad student who just wants to find a new world to explore. I feel as though I’ve gushed about this book enough. I’ve discovered my new favorite genre is “novels about novels.” I am also loving “new adult” fantasy. Honestly, I liked this better than The Night Circus, but I would still recommend it. The Starless Sea was a wonderful read with beautiful writing and fantastic characters. I had a very difficult time putting down this book and will definitely be revisiting it in the future. I actually really enjoyed how the romances in this novel were handled, as someone who does not typically like romance. I loved the world-building and unique narrative structure of the novel. It is all so involved in the best way. Also, bonus points for including LGBTQ+ characters. I am so glad this is my first official book review of 2020 and I cannot recommend this one enough.