Let’s chat about books: The Starless Sea

Book Design by Pei Loi Koay
Case images of bee, key,  and sword: Shutterstock
Jacket and endpaper art by Dan Funderburgh @ Debut Art
Jacket Design by John Fontana

Book Design by Pei Loi Koay Case images of bee, key, and sword: Shutterstock Jacket and endpaper art by Dan Funderburgh @ Debut Art Jacket Design by John Fontana

It’s that time again! We’re talking about The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, a story with almost as many layers as the underground library Morgenstern writes about.


To provide an outline of the basis of the story is rather difficult. There are 500 pages of complete confusion, but an explanation shall be attempted. 


Essentially the story is divided into different parts. The sections are all labeled the titles of books in the story and within those sections it alternated from the main story with our main character, Zachary Rawlins, and the stories from within the books that provide the context for the adventure with Zachary. 


Focusing on the linear story, Morgenstern uses a third person narrative style. The main focus is on Zachary Ezra Rawlins. Zachary had an integral moment in his youth that haunted him in his adult life. In the alley way of his childhood home he found a door, a door beckoning him to a world beyond his understanding. But instead of taking a blind leap of faith, he went on with his life and always wondered what could have been. Flash forward to his life at college, he finds a book named Sweet Sorrows that has a chapter depicting that moment in his alleyway. Zachary begins obsessing over figuring out if the other stories in the book are true and who else knows about this world he passed up on. Along the way Zachary meets other characters like Dorian and Mirabel who play key roles in his journey to the Starless Sea. 


In general I like this book. However, the plot does irritate me. Reading the book the whole concept becomes a little fuzzy and I began to wonder what its purpose is. It felt like a slow build up and then BOOM! We’re in the middle of the action now! The fact that I still have so many questions after finishing this book makes me upset and uncomfortable. On the other side of that, when looking back to find quotes to use for an assignment, I made some new connections I wouldn’t have been able to make without the first read-through, so perhaps more comes together the second time you read it. Though I genuinely think with how the plot is structured, a second read-through wouldn’t satisfy even half the questions I have. 


Also, characters felt very two-dimensional at times. Zachary was pretty well developed but characters like Mirabel and Dorian came off very unfinished and almost rushed. Especially Dorian’s relationship with Zachary. It went from 0 to 100 real quick. Call me weird, but I prefer my inner story romances to at least have a foundation before solidifying. 

Overall I have to say 3 out of 5. I enjoyed the story in a very general sense, and there were small cute things I enjoyed, like a reference to her other book Night Circus, but the plot was so obscure I couldn’t enjoy it fully. If you enjoy books that leave you a little confused, go for it! Those who need a stable story line, look elsewhere for entertainment.

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