The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea

Book - 2019
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Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways which lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable certainty that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library, he begins to read and is entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly, a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood, impossibly written in this book which is older than he is. A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade-party dances and whispered backroom stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place for which he has always yearned. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores, Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place, and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and one another, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships which sail upon a Starless Sea.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 2019
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385541213
Characteristics: 498 p. ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Starless Sea : a novel


From Library Staff

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book ... Read More »

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Chapel_Hill_SarahW Feb 25, 2020

I really wanted to like this book; I adored Morgenstern's The Night Circus. For me, the plot was hard to follow, and I felt like I didn't know what was happening for most of the book. However, I did love the interwoven stories and narratives. The idea of fantasy bleeding into life is lovely; Morgenstern creates a beautiful world and endearing characters.

Feb 18, 2020

Book Club - December

IndyPL_SteveB Feb 11, 2020

"Phantasmagoric” -- “a fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery, as in dreams.” That fits this book. Morgenstern’s new novel is not a sequel to *The Night Circus* (which is one of my all-time favorite books) but the writing style and subject matter are familiar. Dreams, magic, interwoven plot lines, time distortion, writing so imaginative yet specifically placed that you almost feel like you are in the book.

Morgenstern tells her tale in a manner similar to *The Night Circus*, jumping from tale to tale, back and forth in time, to build up an overall image that is unclear until the very end, like a trick picture where you only see unconnected bits and pieces, leaving you to guess what the final picture will be. In addition to being fascinated, I was very impressed with her ability to hold the complex plot together and to make every seemingly unrelated story thread become a part of the full tapestry. And of course, sentences that you have never read before. “Then a door catches his eye. A wardrobe overflowing with books has been placed partially in front of it, leaving it half hidden or half found.” You have read “half-hidden” before, but who has paired that with “half-found”?

It’s probably best not to start this until you have some time to dream. A second reading is definitely a good idea.

Jan 29, 2020

Modern Mrs Darcy

Jan 23, 2020

I was a huge fan of The Night Circus when it came out. And thus, became a big fan of Ms. Morgenstern's writing. Very few authors write in such a vivid, poetic way that you can see, hear, touch, and feel what the characters are experiencing.
Although The Starless Sea is equally as vivid and poetic, I have mixed feelings. It is a wondrous story for sure, but moves very very slowly and I felt like I had a hard time keeping track of what was going on- especially in the second half. Like I was missing information that should've already been known to fully grasp the entire tale.
But a solid novel overall.

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 21, 2020

The Night Circus came out in 2012 and while many liked it, it reached a cult-like *LOVE* status for many readers, and I was among them. So nearly eight years later, when Morgenstern’s next novel, The Starless Sea, was released, I was waiting with bated breath. Could it live up to The Night Circus? Would it succumb to the sophomore slump? And I’m happy to report that while The Starless Sea has some problems, it hits so many right notes, so many more complex notes, while it maintains the magically atmospheric writing of The Night Circus, that it’s a novel well-worth your time. The Starless Sea is a book to savour slowly, a book for those who love to read; it is Paris after dark, and subtle inside jokes. In other words, The Starless Sea was worth the wait.

The novel follows Zachary Ezra Rawlins, an Emerging Media grad student. This means he studies video games and game theory. This is a book about how Zachary finds a book, a door, a friend, and a love. It is also the story of Fate and Time and an underground world of books. It is also the story of Simon and Eleanor and how they find and then lose each other. Mostly, The Starless Sea is a very long love letter to readers. It’s the kind of book I’ll probably buy, even though I love my library, because I want to highlight and make notes in it. In structure the closest thing I can compare it to is Catch-22 with stories inside stories (here literally) and convoluted time lines. There is a lot of writing *about* writing, about what makes a story good, about the transitory nature of printed books, about what it means to love books. At one point Zachary worries, “that who he is, or who he thinks he is, is just a collection of references to other people’s art and he is so focused on story and meaning and structure that he wants his world to have all of it neatly laid out and it never, ever does and he fears it never will.”

There are nods that are direct, like the mention of Zachary returning The Shadow of the Wind to the library, to more subtle, like the party he attends at The Algonquin hotel, or his friend Kat’s journal in which she writes “that’s how the light gets in and all that.” And while these are all those references to "other people’s art," they each felt like a secret handshake, an acknowledgment that we’re the readers who find something deep, sweet and affirming in the stories we share.

Jan 17, 2020

If you liked her first book you will really enjoy this one. It takes time to read as there is so much too take in. You will never look at doors the same way. Also cats and libraries under ground. A great deal of imagination went into the writing of this wonderful story, however I think the ending was speeded up to end the story quickly after dragging it out for so long.

Jan 04, 2020

I loved the first half of this book and found the second half to be tedious, meandering and not very satisfying. She creates a secret world of books and libraries, stories and storytelling, myths and fables, with a myriad of unique setting within this secret world i.e. the starless sea. A discussion of RPGs that gave me my first real understanding of their draw. That the fairy tales she told were wholly original i.e. the moon and the innkeeper, Time and Fate, the Owl king and his domain, is astonishing. The book is beautifully and imaginatively written but the characters were two dimensional, the love stories had no depth and the ending was too drawn out and unsatisfactory.

ontherideau Dec 31, 2019

Fantastic writing and subject matter out of this world- literally.

Dec 29, 2019

Couldn't get into the book because of the writing. When I switched to reading it with television's Closed Captioning voice, that was when I got into it. Not a very nice voice in my head.
I tried to like the book but I couldn't care about any of the characters.

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PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"She gave me an opaque plastic cup identical to the one I'd abandoned inside but with better bourbon in it, on the rocks.

I accepted because mysterious ladies offering bourbon under the stars is very much my aesthetic."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"But he's hardly looking at the book and barely eating his noodles. He sucks at subtlety. He's watching me write. Eyeing up my journal like he's trying to figure out how he's going to snag it when I'm not looking.

I'm always looking now.

You will pry this Adventure Time notebook from my cold dead hands, ya ding-dong."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"They asked if I thought he would have done something- like jumped-off-a-bridge something- and I said I didn't think so, but I also think most of us are two steps away from jumping off something most of the time and you never know if the next day is going to push you in one direction or another."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"'A book is an interpretation,' she says. 'You want a place to be like it was in the book but it's not a place in a book it's just words. The place in your imagination is where you want to go and that place is imaginary. This is real,' she places her hand on the wall in front of them. The stone is cracked near her fingers, a fissure running down the side and disappearing into a column. 'You could write endless pages but the words will never be the place.'"

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"'We've been having adventures, Rhyme,' Mirabel says and the girl frowns. 'There was a daring rescue and bondage and tea and a fire and two-thirds of us got poisoned. Also, this is Zachary, Zachary this is Rhyme.'"

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"A reading major, that's what he wants. No response papers, no exams, no analysis, just the reading."

IndyPL_MarianneK Oct 22, 2019

"To Seeking" "To Finding"


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