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The Starless Sea: A Novel by Erin…

The Starless Sea: A Novel (edition 2019)

by Erin Morgenstern (Author)

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8323817,278 (4.04)44
"Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a rare 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 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 of honey, 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 beautiful 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 rare book and in his own life"--… (more)
Title:The Starless Sea: A Novel
Authors:Erin Morgenstern (Author)
Info:Doubleday (2019), 512 pages
Collections:Loaned from Library

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The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


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''Far beneath the surface of the earth, hidden from the sun and the moon, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. Stories written in books and sealed in jars and painted on walls. Odes inscribed onto skin and pressed into rose petals. Tales laid in tiles upon the floors, bits of plot hung from chandeliers. Stories cataloged and cared for and revered. Old stories preserved while new stories spring up around them.''
I don't think there are words to describe this book accurately. If magic, dreams and the essence of what stories mean for us could be found within the pages of a book, tangible enough for us to touch, this would be it...

Zachary is tempted by a strange book that has been forgotten in his university library. He is soon shocked to find that it contains secrets of his own childhood, along with beautiful, mystical legends of love and loss. Fate brings Mirable and Dorian in his way, two mysterious characters who seem to hold the answer to Zachary's quest for an explanation. And somewhere close by the owls are watching…

''Isn't that what anyone wants, though? [...] To be able to make your own choices and decisions but to have it be part of a story? You want that narrative there to trust in, even if you want to maintain your own free will.''
Morgenstern has created a tale out of tales, a fable out of the human need to seek and explain, to dream and understand. Zachary's story is closely connected to an array of beautiful stories/myths that focus on the unique ability to make the impossible possible. Each door leads to another step (but is it really a step forward...?), each character is a puzzle piece that can acquire multiple places on the board. Matryoshka dolls open and close within the pages as we try to guess and navigate along with Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian.

''These doors will sing. Silent siren songs for those who seek what lies behind them.
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) is that they are seeking.
Those who seek will find.
Their doors have been waiting for them.''

Morgenstern's stories elevate the novel to perfection. From our need to touch the stars, to acquire the unattainable, to turn our dreams into reality, to throw our nightmares away like torn pieces of paper. Stories that are dark and menacing, stories of light and hope, on impossible love and dangerous antagonists, storied born in a world where dollhouses expand and create actual communities, where the Sun and the Moon meet to discuss the future of the world, where the Moon falls in love with a mortal man and Time falls in love with Fate, where young girls converse with ghosts, where women sculpt stories, where pirates and young women embark on adventures in the Starless Sea.

This book is for each one of us. The ones who love stories and magic, travelling to a place where we need to expect the unexpected. This isn't about liking Fantasy or any other literary label. This is about living in a story the likes of which we haven't seen before. This is about experiencing what it means when we talk about unbearably beautiful writing...

''Why then do you think the stories continue to be told once the children are grown?''

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jan 28, 2020 |
With The Starless Sea, Morgenstern has written a deeply felt and beautiful paean to story. Every sentence is meticulously crafted to create stunning images. There is a scene in the book that describes a dollhouse sitting in a city crafted of paper and wine bottles on the shores of a confetti sea, each detail of this miniature world lovingly realized. That, in essence, is what this book is, five hundred pages of lovingly realized details constructing a world that is both familiar (at least to constant readers) and absolutely original.

The plot is an adventure and a romance, and probably is not as important as the craft. Interspersed between episodes in the main plot are interludes, fairy tales, and snippets of story that all eventually have bearing on the whole. I actually enjoyed these interludes and their side characters more than the main plot. For me, the characters in the main story seemed like set pieces, and although free will was emphasized, they did behave like pawns in a game. It was not these characters who were important but where they went and what they saw. This is a story about storytelling, and characters in stories do not have free will--only the author (or story sculptor) does.

Never mind about the plot, though. The exquisite writing, the imagery, and the imagined world of the Starless Sea are more than enough to carry this novel, at least for me. ( )
  sturlington | Jan 26, 2020 |
Writing style haunting and mesmerizing but story itself a mish-mash and confusing. As the fantasy world was a sort of underground library, this novel was a paean to books, libraries and storytelling. In some respects an [Alice in Wonderland] knock-off. ( )
  janerawoof | Jan 24, 2020 |
DNF at 19%

I had moments where I was totally invested, but every time that happened, the book itself ripped me out of any momentum I had by dropping me into yet another story that was entirely unconnected from everything else, with no real point to it, which often repeated itself.

Due to friends spoiling me the ending when I asked, I decided that continuing isn't worth it for me. The world is a mystery, and I like world mysteries. But it isn't enough to keep me going.

So far, there is no one and nothing to root for or even against. Everything just is, and the reader is slowly being drip fed information that honestly..not even certain is really going to become important or not. This is a very passive book for the reader.

I feel like at about 1/5 of the way through the book, I should know about and care about more of the story than I do now. Which is next to nothing, and not the first time I've read the idea. Dude is in a book he read. Now what? Heck if I know, but I should have had a better 10% ago.

Just not for me.
  keikii | Jan 23, 2020 |
A secret library, a hidden realm, stories fated and entwined, a dangerous club, swords, crowns, bees — what’s not to like? When Zachary Ezra Rawlins stumbles upon a curious and possibly miscatalogued book in the university library, he is already in a story which may have begun fourteen years earlier when he chose not to try the doorknob of a door painted on a wall in an alley. Choices matter. Zachary, a graduate student in Emerging Media Studies, is fully invested in narrative and narrative games. Following up a thread like a mis-located book is par for the course. He has no idea what pulling that thread may entail. Soon he will be drowning in a sea of story, a honey sea.

Morgenstern weaves a tasty tapestry of mythic love, obsession, and kindness. With nods to numerous other world-makers along the way, her cavernous world by the starless sea is nonetheless unique. Zachary’s quest mingles with many other story paths but ultimately it all depends on Fate. And Fate keeps her cards close to her chest. So it might as well be described as free choice. Time has a role, inevitably, Time and Fate being bound together. But this all makes it sound rather grand and mythic. Whereas much of Zachary’s story is just the simple one of a boy who loves a boy and will go to the ends of the earth, to death and back, for love.

There is a cloyingness to this style of writing. Vast numbers of single sentence paragraphs, which are either lyrical and poetic or portentous. Labyrinthine plots and worlds double down on the stylistic choices. So this is probably not going to appeal to everyone. But, I admit, I’m a sucker for this kind of story. And though I resisted at first, I got pulled in and raced along to see whether everything would come out fine in the end. Well, this is a romance after all, of many kinds, not least of which is love of narrative.

Recommended, but possibly not for everyone. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jan 22, 2020 |
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