The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern’s award-winning debut novel The Night Circus is one of those wonderful books that swallows you whole, rendering the world of a magical carnival in such vivid prose that you can almost taste the caramel corn. Eight years after its publication, Morgenstern has finally returned to our shelves with the release of a new novel far more ambitious in scope, but every bit as absorbing as its predecessor.
The Starless Sea begins with several snippets of story: a pirate waiting for death, an acolyte who trades her voice for a secret, and the son of a fortune teller who finds a mysterious door … and doesn’t pass through it. The last is Zachary Rawlins, a shy university student who is astonished to find one of his memories – one that he’s never shared with anyone – written within the pages of a book. Determined to uncover the truth behind the uncanny coincidence, Zachary finds himself on a journey that takes him to a vast subterranean library that’s such a jealously guarded secret that it is falling into oblivion. Along the way, he meets the enigmatic Mirabel and the captivating Dorian, both members of a shadowy organisation tasked with protecting the world of the Starless Sea.
At nearly five hundred pages, The Starless Sea is a dense read that weaves Zachary’s story with an array of seemingly disparate fairytales, fables, memories, and journal entries. As the book continues it becomes clear that the texts are linked, and gradually a single powerful narrative emerges. An ode to reading, to stories, to books, to memory, to secrets, missed opportunities, second chances, fate, love, and hope, The Starless Sea is a beautiful tale that rewards patient readers with a magical world from which they’ll emerge, blinking, into the light.