The Starless high quality Sea: high quality A Novel online

The Starless high quality Sea: high quality A Novel online

The Starless high quality Sea: high quality A Novel online
The Starless high quality Sea: high quality A Novel online__left

Description

Product Description

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 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 an ancient 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, 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 of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, 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 mysterious book and in his own life.

Amazon.com Review

Those of us who loved The Night Circus have waited nearly a decade for Erin Morgenstern’s next novel and The Starless Sea does not disappoint. In fact, Morgenstern’s enchanted touch with words and imagery, so vivid it’s impossible not to picture even the most delicate of details, is as exquisite as ever. The Starless Sea is a love letter to books and readers, a masterpiece of stories within a story where fables of pirates and princesses converge with the saga of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, the son of a fortune teller. A series of unusual events leads Rawlins to a secret repository of books and fairy tales, a place that contains worlds within time and somewhere a starless sea. Rawlins falls in love first with a book and later a person, both of which compel him to embark on a dangerous journey through time and place, lost loves, and lives lived again and again. I was delighted by Morgenstern’s nods to the beloved world-bending classic Alice''s Adventures in Wonderland and—as I began to hope for in a book with many magical doors—Narnia. The Starless Sea reveals increasing layers of complexity as fiction and reality start to blend, and characters collide in surprising ways. I could go on and on about the beauty of Morgenstern’s writing, and the symbolism of the bee, the key, and the sword, but instead I will tell you that the night I finished this book I dreamt about it. And it was pure magic —Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review

Review

"Anyone who’s read Erin Morgenstern’s wildly successful fiction debut,  The Night Circus, knows how meticulously she crafts her imaginary worlds... the reader [is] immersed in a multitude of stories, the threads of which gradually weave together to a haunting conclusion."— NPR

“A mythical tale…a story about stories, all essentially relating to Fate and Time. Morgenstern nests a glittering trove of meta-narratives, myths, folkloric fables within a main storyline about a hero’s quest. The Starless Sea is the kind of book that could spawn a Harry Potter-esque cult. I can imagine fan sites devoted to mapping, analyzing and connecting the dots among its fantastical intricacies. I predict readers for whom it will become a holy of holies, one of their most treasured books of all time. It’s that kind of book. ”— Newsday 

“A richly imaginative ode to books and storytelling...this fantasy-filled novel entwines a mysterious underground world with the story of a grad student on a quest to understand his past.”  People

"From the author of  The Night Circus comes a wildly fanciful lark that has all the hits: mystery, love, libraries,  Harry Potter references, and pirates. It''s a complex, darkly beautiful story with some of the most inventive storytelling we''ve read all year.” Good Housekeeping, Best Book of 2019

"The most joyous reading experience I’ve had in recent memory... It is, not to put too fine a point on it, wonderful...  a master-class in plotting and prestidigitation... unabashedly romantic... a warm, honeyed bath of words and ideas." Robert WiersemaThe Toronto Star 

"Assuredly beautiful... The novel reads like panel after panel of mythic illustrations... It demands that its readers interpret it in an older way; the way we read  The Faerie Queene... Well-written... The novel’s scope and ambition are undeniable." —Natasha Pulley, The Guardian

"A mystical adventure in an enchanted universe... The novel is not simply a quest narrative–it’s also a meta-examination of stories that demands the reader’s patience–and then rewards it... Morgenstern’s elegant, poetic prose keeps the pages turning as she begins to draw connections within a web of tales that reads like an ode to stories, themselves, and celebrates the distinct pleasure that comes from engaging with a text. For Zachary, that pleasure outweighs any temptation he might have to return to school and his regular life. It leads, instead, to a journey of sacrifice and self-discovery as he unearths his own place in the puzzling book’s narrative. For everyone else, the thrill comes from watching him on the ride." —Annabel Gutterman, Time

"Erin Morgenstern has magic to make... the author returns with a new fantastical fairy-tale for grown-ups... Comparisons to the likes of Tolkien, Carroll, and C.S. Lewis abound. The Starless Sea poses big questions about stories — the ones we read, the ones we live, and the ones we tell ourselves. And at the heart of her work lies the themes that have provoked those comparisons: redemption, sacrifice, fate, time, reincarnation.... We’re willing to bet the embrace of this deeper, darker, more complex follow-up novel might be close to a sure thing. As Morgenstern posits , The Starless Sea is a door to another world — one just waiting for readers to open it." —Maureen Lee Lenker,  Entertainment Weekly

"Extravagantly imaginative... Her new book arrives eight years after her high-wire fantasy of a first novel The Night Circus, and it''s just as magical but even more daring... The stuff of a bibliophile''s dreams... There are nods to Tolkien and Sendak, Susanna Clarke and Lev Grossman, Grimm and Gaiman. The intricate world-building is nothing short of fabulous, the prose lush and filigreed."  —Nancy Pate, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A timeless love story" The Nerd Daily

"A magnificent quest, a sense of unfolding adventure and danger, gold-wrought fantasy, and endless provocation on what storytelling really means." Library Journal, starred review

"A high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do [and] a stunning array of linked fables, myths and origin stories. . . . It is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they''re set in motion. As in  The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail. . . . This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call. An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page."  —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Morgenstern''s new fantasy epic is a puzzlebox of a book, full of meta-narratives and small folkloric tales that will delight readers. . . . Morgenstern uses poetic, honey-like prose to tell a story that plays with the very concept of what we expect and want from our stories. . . . She trusts her readers to follow along and speculate, wonder and make leaps themselves . . . giving the book a mythic quality that will stick with readers long after they put it down. The massive legion of readers who loved Morgenstern''s debut will be clamoring to recapture the magic of that reading experience." Booklist, starred review

"This love letter to bibliophiles is dreamlike and uncanny, grounded in deeply felt emotion, and absolutely thrilling." Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A page-turner. . . . It''s unlikely [ The Night Circus fans] will be disappointed by this sweeping follow-up, which unfolds an epic romance within a secret underground world of lost cities, handsome pirates and endless puzzles to be solved."  Entertainment Weekly

"[A] gorgeously written epic love story, filled with magic and mystery."  —Popsugar

"A spellbinding novel. . . . I could not put it down, and when I finished, I turned immediately back to the first page so I wouldn''t have to leave this magical world. If you believe in the power of stories to transcend time and space, to marry love and fate, read this book!" —Angie Kim, author of  Miracle Creek

About the Author

ERIN MORGENSTERN is the author of The Night Circus, a number-one national best seller that has been sold around the world and translated into thirty-seven languages. She has a degree in theater from Smith College and lives in Massachusetts.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

BOOK I

SWEET SORROWS

Once, very long ago . . .

There is a pirate in the basement.

(The pirate is a metaphor but also still a person.)

(The basement could rightly be considered a dungeon.)

The pirate was placed here for numerous acts of a piratey nature considered criminal enough for punishment by those non-pirates who decide such things.

Someone said to throw away the key, but the key rests on a tarnished ring on a hook that hangs on the wall nearby.

(Close enough to see from behind the bars. Freedom kept in sight but out of reach, left as a reminder to the prisoner. No one remembers that now on the key side of the bars. The careful psychological design forgotten, distilled into habit and convenience.)

(The pirate realizes this but withholds comment.)

The guard sits in a chair by the door and reads crime serials on faded paper, wishing he were an idealized, fictional version of himself. Wondering if the difference between pirates and thieves is a matter of boats and hats.

After a time he is replaced by another guard. The pirate cannot discern the precise schedule, as the basement-dungeon has no clocks to mark the time and the sound of the waves on the shore beyond the stone walls muffles the morning chimes, the evening merriment.

This guard is shorter and does not read. He wishes to be no one but himself, he lacks the imagination to conjure alter egos, even the imagination to empathize with the man behind the bars, the only other soul in the room beyond the mice. He pays elaborate amounts of attention to his shoes when he is not asleep. (He is usually asleep.)

Approximately three hours after the short guard replaces the reading guard, a girl comes.

The girl brings a plate of bread and a bowl of water and sets them outside the pirate’s cell with hands shaking so badly that half the water spills. Then she turns and scampers up the stairs.

The second night (the pirate guesses it is night) the pirate stands as close to the bars as he can and stares and the girl drops the bread nearly out of reach and spills the bowl of water almost entirely.

The third night the pirate stays in the shadows of the back corner and manages to keep most of his water.

The fourth night a different girl comes.

This girl does not wake the guard. Her feet fall more softly on the stones and any sound they make is stolen away by the waves or by the mice.

This girl stares into the shadows at the barely visible pirate, gives a little disappointed sigh, and places the bread and bowl by the bars. Then she waits.

The pirate remains in the shadows.

After several minutes of silence punctuated by the guard’s snoring, the girl turns away and leaves.

When the pirate retrieves his meal he finds the water has been mixed with wine.

The next night, the fifth night if it is night at all, the pirate waits by the bars for the girl to descend on her silent feet.

Her steps halt only briefly when she sees him.

The pirate stares and the girl stares back.

He holds out a hand for his bowl and his bread but the girl places them on the ground instead, her eyes never leaving his, not allowing so much as the hem of her gown to drift into his reach. Bold yet coy. She gives him a hint of a bow as she returns to her feet, a gentle nod of her head, a movement that reminds him of the beginning of the dance.

(Even a pirate can recognize the beginning of a dance.)

The next night the pirate stays back from the bars, a polite distance that could be closed in a single step, and the girl comes a breath closer.

Another night and the dance continues. A step closer. A step back. A movement to the side. The next night he holds out his hand again to accept what she offers and this time she responds and his fingers brush against the back of her hand.

The girl begins to linger, staying longer each night, though if the guard stirs to the point of waking she departs without a backward glance.

She brings two bowls of wine and they drink together in companionable silence. The guard has stopped snoring, his sleep deep and restful. The pirate suspects the girl has something to do with that. Bold and coy and clever.

Some nights she brings more than bread. Oranges and plums secreted in the pockets of her gown. Pieces of candied ginger wrapped in paper laced with stories.

Some nights she stays until moments before the changing of the guards.

(The daytime guard has begun leaving his crime serials within reach of the cell’s walls, ostensibly by accident.)

The shorter guard paces tonight. He clears his throat as though he might say something but says nothing. He settles himself in his chair and falls into an anxious sleep.

The pirate waits for the girl.

She arrives empty-handed.

Tonight is the last night. The night before the gallows. (The gallows are also a metaphor, albeit an obvious one.) The pirate knows that there will not be another night, will not be another changing of the guard after the next one. The girl knows the exact number of hours.

They do not speak of it.

They have never spoken.

The pirate twists a lock of the girl’s hair between his fingers.

The girl leans into the bars, her cheek resting on cold iron, as close as she can be while she remains a world away.

Close enough to kiss.

“Tell me a story,” she says.

The pirate obliges her.

There are three paths. This is one of them.

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 worn away by passing feet. Legends carved in crystal and hung from chandeliers. Stories catalogued and cared for and revered. Old stories preserved while new stories spring up around them.

The place is sprawling yet intimate. It is difficult to measure its breadth. Halls fold into rooms or galleries and stairs twist downward or upward to alcoves or arcades. Everywhere there are doors leading to new spaces and new stories and new secrets to be discovered and everywhere there are books.

It is a sanctuary for storytellers and storykeepers and storylovers. They eat and sleep and dream surrounded by chronicles and histories and myths. Some stay for hours or days before returning to the world above but others remain for weeks or years, living in shared or private chambers and spending their hours reading or studying or writing, discussing and creating with their fellow residents or working in solitude.

Of those who remain, a few choose to devote themselves to this space, to this temple of stories.

There are three paths. This is one of them.

This is the path of the acolytes.

Those who wish to choose this path must spend a full cycle of the moon in isolated contemplation before they commit. The contemplation is thought to be silent, but of those who allow themselves to be locked away in the stone-walled room, some will realize that no one can hear them. They can talk or yell or scream and it violates no rules. The contemplation is only thought to be silent by those who have never been inside the room.

Once the contemplation has ended they have the opportunity to leave their path. To choose another path or no path at all.

Those who spend their time in silence often choose to leave both the path and the space. They return to the surface. They squint at the sun. Sometimes they remember a world below that they once intended to devote themselves to but the memory is hazy, like a place from a dream.

More often it is those who scream and cry and wail, those who talk to themselves for hours, who are ready when the time comes to proceed with their initiation.

Tonight, as the moon is new and the door is unlocked, it reveals a young woman who has spent most of her time singing. She is shy and not in the habit of singing, but on her first night of contemplation she realized almost by accident that no one could hear her. She laughed, partly at herself and partly at the oddity of having voluntarily jailed herself in the most luxurious of cells with its feather bed and silken sheets. The laugh echoed around the stone room like ripples of water.

She clasped her hand over her mouth and waited for someone to come but no one did. She tried to recall if anyone had told her explicitly not to speak.

She said “Hello?” and only the echoes returned her greeting.

It took a few days before she was brave enough to sing. She had never liked her singing voice but in her captivity free of embarrassment and expectation she sang, softly at first but then brightly and boldly. The voice that the echo returned to her ears was surprisingly pleasant.

She sang all the songs she knew. She made up her own. In moments when she could not think of words to sing she created nonsense languages for lyrics with sounds she found pleasing.

It surprised her how quickly the time passed.

Now the door opens.

The acolyte who enters holds a ring of brass keys. He offers his other palm to her. On it sits a small disk of metal with a raised carving of a bee.

Accepting the bee is the next step in becoming an acolyte. This is her final chance to refuse.

She takes the bee from the acolyte’s palm. He bows and gestures for her to follow him.

The young woman who is to be an acolyte turns the warm metal disk over in her fingers as they walk through narrow candlelit tunnels lined with bookshelves and open caverns filled with mismatched chairs and tables, stacked high with books and dotted with statues. She pets a statue of a fox as they pass by, a popular habit that has worn its carved fur smooth between its ears.

An older man leafing through a volume glances up as they pass and recognizing the procession he places two fingers to his lips and inclines his head at her.

At her, not at the acolyte she follows. A gesture of respect for a position she does not yet officially hold. She bows her head to hide her smile. They continue down gilded stairways and through curving tunnels she has never traversed before. She slows to look at the paintings hung between the shelves of books, images of trees and girls and ghosts.

The acolyte stops at a door marked with a golden bee. He chooses a key from his ring and unlocks it.

Here begins the initiation.

It is a secret ceremony. The details are known only to those who undergo it and those who perform it. It has been performed in the same fashion always, as long as anyone can remember.

As the door with the golden bee is opened and the threshold crossed the acolyte gives up her name. Whatever name this young woman was called before she will never be addressed by it again, it stays in her past. Someday she may have a new name, but for the moment she is nameless.

The room is small and round and high-ceilinged, a miniature version of her contemplation cell. It holds a plain wooden chair on one side and a waist-high pillar of stone topped with a bowl of fire. The fire provides the only light.

The elder acolyte gestures for the young woman to sit in the wooden chair. She does. She faces the fire, watching the flames dance until a piece of black silk is tied over her eyes.

The ceremony continues unseen.

The metal bee is taken from her hand. There is a pause followed by the sound of metal instruments clinking and then the sensation of a finger on her chest, pressing into a spot on her breastbone. The pressure releases and then it is replaced by a sharp, searing pain.

(She will realize afterward that the metal bee has been heated in the fire, its winged impression burned into her chest.)

The surprise of it unnerves her. She has prepared herself for what she knows of the rest of the ceremony, but this is unexpected. She realizes she has never seen the bare chest of another acolyte.

When moments before she was ready, now she is shaken and unsure.

But she does not say Stop. She does not say No.

She has made her decision, though she could not have known everything that decision would entail.

In the darkness, fingers part her lips and a drop of honey is placed on her tongue.

This is to ensure that the last taste is sweet.

In truth the last taste that remains in an acolyte’s mouth is more than honey: the sweetness swept up in blood and metal and burning flesh.

Were an acolyte able to describe it, afterward, they might clarify that the last taste they experience is one of honey and smoke.

It is not entirely sweet.

They recall it each time they extinguish the flame atop a beeswax candle.

A reminder of their devotion.

But they cannot speak of it.

They surrender their tongues willingly. They offer up their ability to speak to better serve the voices of others.

They take an unspoken vow to no longer tell their own stories in reverence to the ones that came before and to the ones that shall follow.

In this honey-tinged pain the young woman in the chair thinks she might scream but she does not. In the darkness the fire seems to consume the entire room and she can see shapes in the flames even though her eyes are covered.

The bee on her chest flutters.

Once her tongue has been taken and burned and turned to ash, once the ceremony is complete and her servitude as an acolyte officially begins, once her voice has been muted, then her ears awaken.

Then the stories begin to come.

To deceive the eye.

The boy is the son of the fortune-teller. He has reached an age that brings an uncertainty as to whether this is something to be proud of, or even a detail to be divulged, but it remains true.

He walks home from school toward an apartment situated above a shop strewn with crystal balls and tarot cards, incense and statues of animal-headed deities and dried sage. (The scent of sage permeates everything, from his bedsheets to his shoelaces.)

Today, as he does every school day, the boy takes a shortcut through an alleyway that loops behind the store, a narrow passage between tall brick walls that are often covered with graffiti and then whitewashed and then graffitied again.

Today, instead of the creatively spelled tags and bubble-lettered profanities, there is a single piece of artwork on the otherwise white bricks.

It is a door.

The boy stops. He adjusts his spectacles to focus his eyes better, to be certain he is seeing what his sometimes unreliable vision suggests he is seeing.

The haziness around the edges sharpens, and it is still a door. Larger and fancier and more impressive than he’d thought at first fuzzy glance.


He is uncertain what to make of it.

Its incongruousness demands his attention.

The door is situated far back in the alley, in a shadowed section hidden from the sun, but the colors are still rich, some of the pigments metallic. More delicate than most of the graffiti the boy has seen. Painted in a style he knows has a fancy French name, something about fooling the eye, though he cannot recall the term here and now.

The door is carved—no, painted—with sharp-cut geometric patterns that wind around its edges creating depth where there is only flatness. In the center, at the level where a peephole might be and stylized with lines that match the rest of the painted carving, is a bee. Beneath the bee is a key. Beneath the key is a sword.

A golden, seemingly three-dimensional doorknob shimmers despite the lack of light. A keyhole is painted beneath, so dark it looks to be a void awaiting a key rather than a few strokes of black paint.

The door is strange and pretty and something that the boy does not have words for and does not know if there are words for, even fancy French expressions.

Somewhere in the street an unseen dog barks but it sounds distant and abstract. The sun moves behind a cloud and the alley feels longer and deeper and darker, the door itself brighter.
Tentatively, the boy reaches out to touch the door.

The part of him that still believes in magic expects it to be warm despite the chill in the air. Expects the image to have fundamentally changed the brick. Makes his heart beat faster even as his hand slows down because the part of him that thinks the other part is being childish prepares for disappointment.

His fingertips meet the door below the sword and they come to rest on smooth paint covering cool brick, a slight unevenness to the surface betraying the texture below.

It is just a wall. Just a wall with a pretty picture on it.

But still.

Still there is the sensation tugging at him that this is more than what it appears to be.

He presses his palm against the painted brick. The false wood of the door is a brown barely a shade or two off from his own skin tone, as though it has been mixed to match him.

Behind the door is somewhere else. Not the room behind the wall. Something more. He knows this. He feels it in his toes.

This is what his mother would call a moment with meaning. A moment that changes the moments that follow.

The son of the fortune-teller knows only that the door feels important in a way he cannot quite explain, even to himself.

A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun.

He traces the painted lines of the key with his fingertips, marveling at how much the key, like the sword and the bee and the doorknob, looks as though it should be three-dimensional.

The boy wonders who painted it and what it means, if it means anything. If not the door at least the symbols. If it is a sign and not a door, or if it is both at once.

In this significant moment, if the boy turns the painted knob and opens the impossible door, everything will change.

But he does not.

Instead, he puts his hands in his pockets.

Part of him decides he is being childish and that he is too old to expect real life to be like books. Another part of him decides that if he does not try he cannot be disappointed and he can go on believing that the door could open even if it is just pretend.

He stands with his hands in his pockets and considers the door for a moment more before walking away.

The following day his curiosity gets the better of him and he returns to find that the door has been painted over. The brick wall whitewashed to the point where he cannot even discern where, precisely, the door had been.

And so the son of the fortune-teller does not find his way to the Starless Sea.

Not yet.

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4.3 out of 54.3 out of 5
7,853 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Jadzia Ryska
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I really, really wanted to like this book...
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2019
I work in a library and I love book-related fantasy, so I bought a copy of The Starless Sea on Amazon, rather than wait for a copy via the reserve list at the library. The two stars I give this product are for the prompt Amazon delivery and for the product arriving in fine... See more
I work in a library and I love book-related fantasy, so I bought a copy of The Starless Sea on Amazon, rather than wait for a copy via the reserve list at the library. The two stars I give this product are for the prompt Amazon delivery and for the product arriving in fine shape.

As far as the story itself is concerned, my advice to potential readers is check it out at the library first. Then if you really like it, buy a copy. The book started off fairly well, but soon bogged down and devolved into endless repeat descriptions of keys hanging all over stuff, book pages hanging all over stuff, candle wax dripping all over stuff, honey pouring all over stuff, room-furnishing descriptions and lots and lots of alcohol consumption. The main character''s liquor and high-carb food preferences were fine for maybe a single explanation, but after myriad references to sidecars, wine, bourbon, single malt whiskey, beer, etc., etc., and various characters'' drinking habits, I was colossally bored.

The parts of the book that I did find interesting, such as the possible crossover effects between video games and books in the imaginal realm, were underdeveloped, as were many of the creatures that just seemed to appear and disappear randomly. The basically do-nothing Owls were the worst of the lot. The Owls could have been left out of the story entirely without changing a thing-- they were an almost totally untapped potential.

I enjoyed the Rabbit-Girl and the interweaving of the various individual stories, but after everything started cross-referencing everything else, the link-ups became very predictable.

Basically, what this book needed and did not get was tight and extensive editing. As it stands, it is basically 500-plus pages of word-salad, pretty and poetic in a few places but mostly mind-numbingly repetitive. I am donating my copy to my library to help shorten the reserve list and hopefully save some folks their hard-earned pocket-money.
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Eric Howe
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Does not appeal like Night Circus
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2019
Night Circus remains one of my personal favorites, largely because of the author''s ability to write such beautiful and immersive prose. Reader be forewarned about the glowing reviews. Starless Sea still displays the author''s strength in lovely and... See more
Night Circus remains one of my personal favorites, largely because of the author''s ability to write such beautiful and immersive prose.

Reader be forewarned about the glowing reviews.

Starless Sea still displays the author''s strength in lovely and emotive writing. She is undoubtedly a creative force. However, she intentionally (I assume) uses certain techniques which are a major distraction. Frequent use of choppy and truncated sentence structure. Frequent use of the main character''s partial (or full) name, sentence after sentence. Perhaps I am missing some vogue literary technique, but I might suggest a pronoun here or there?

The story is intentionally disjointed, both with respect to character(s) and time. It makes it difficult to invest in anything, and I felt like I was reading a kaleidoscope of over-the-top Alice in Wonderland descriptions. I''m not trying to be cruel/harsh - this book will have a much more narrow appeal, whereas Night Circus appealed to many. This book was a disconnected mess of thesaurus writing. I wonder if the author decided to go overboard with those things she''s undoubtedly heard from readers of the Night Circus over the past eight years. Unfortunately, she went way too far, and the story is simply not that good.

The romance element was unbelievable, largely because it seemed rushed and undeveloped. And...take it as a neutral comment - the same-sex element was a surprise. No - I''m not opposed to same sex relationships, and I understand this critique will trigger some (sorry). In the Night Circus, right there on the back jacket cover, the author describes the romance between a man/woman, played out over years in a unique setting. In Starless Sea...the romance is described more circumspectly on the cover. Admittedly, I may have "passed" on buying Starless Sea had I known about this emphasis. I see nothing wrong or controversial about this. Please don''t make it an issue, where none exists. Respectfully, please consider the possibility that someone can be accepting of gay individuals and yet not want to read about them. Readers often want to project themselves into fantasies, even pretending certain possibilities that the story "could happen to them." That''s the entertainment in reading fiction, isn''t it? So....as someone who has very close gay friends, I see nothing wrong in being honest that I don''t want to read about a gay romance, because I don''t project myself well into the story. I unapologetically prefer heterosexual romances in a story, because of the reasons I gave above. Just consider this perspective, that''s all -

Again, I loved Night Circus. Loved it. Starless Sea is altogether different. I am obviously not the target audience, which I suspect must be those (like many of the characters she tries to develop in the book) who are attracted to deeply intense and fragmented storytelling. I found myself not caring anymore about the characters, largely because of the helter skelter manner in which they are developed. It was difficult to motivate myself to finish many of the chapters, let alone the entire lengthy manuscript. (Where was the editor for this book?).

I imagine Starless Sea will win awards for her creative writing, much like Night Circus. However, sadly for me this book didn''t jive - from the story, to the repetition, to the nature of the romance, & etc.

Finally, I reject the positive reviews from people who repeatedly keep writing that you have to read the book more than once to "get it." That is ridiculous. I read Night Circus more than once, because I so enjoyed the story, the characters, the writing & etc. I shouldn''t have to re-read a novel because I can''t discover a meaningful plot.
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J. Galt
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Pretentious, confusing
Reviewed in the United States on November 8, 2019
I am here to say I was incredibly underwhelmed and disappointed by this book. I had no idea what was going on for the majority of this book. I do not feel that this is due to my own ineptitude. But rather, I didn''t know what was going on in this book because nothing was... See more
I am here to say I was incredibly underwhelmed and disappointed by this book. I had no idea what was going on for the majority of this book. I do not feel that this is due to my own ineptitude. But rather, I didn''t know what was going on in this book because nothing was going on. I did not enjoy this at all. Pretentious, confusing and jumping through time to make no sense whatsoever.
327 people found this helpful
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Simba
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Magic But Not Magical
Reviewed in the United States on November 10, 2019
Some pre-review info: 1. I adore The Night Circus and have read it multiple times. It is one of my all-time favorite novels. 2. I have degrees in literature, am an avid reader, and enjoy a wide variety of styles and techniques. 3. I appreciate the pressure an author... See more
Some pre-review info: 1. I adore The Night Circus and have read it multiple times. It is one of my all-time favorite novels. 2. I have degrees in literature, am an avid reader, and enjoy a wide variety of styles and techniques. 3. I appreciate the pressure an author with a highly successful debut novel must feel trying to write a second novel that will equal or top a previous blockbuster. 4. Erin Morgenstern is obviously a talented and creative "worker of words", and some of her prose is beautiful. NOW, with all that said . . . I was disappointed and disheartened by The Starless Sea. It appears that Morgenstern tried to be all-inclusive(throwing everything except the kitchen sink into this way too long and cluttered novel), too politically correct with her diverse protagonists and situations, and unnecessarily visceral with many graphic descriptions (beginning with the "tongue" scene). The unfortunate result was a tedious, chaotic, often incomprehensible and unpleasant reading that left me frustrated at having invested so much time, effort, and money (pre-ordered the hardback believing I''d want to keep it with my original beloved Night Circus). Today, after taking one complete day to really think about--and try unsuccessfully to analyze--this novel, I''m left with a sad , empty feeling. The Starless Sea is a book about magic, but unlike The Night Circus, there is nothing "MAGICAL" about it.
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LeanneTop Contributor: Cooking
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another magical book from Morgenstern [no spoilers]
Reviewed in the United States on November 5, 2019
_The Night Circus_ is one of my favorite contemporary novels -- and her new one doesn''t disappoint! If you love books that weave together fantasy and reality, you''ll love her new novel. My copy arrived before the release date, and I devoured it in a few... See more
_The Night Circus_ is one of my favorite contemporary novels -- and her new one doesn''t disappoint! If you love books that weave together fantasy and reality, you''ll love her new novel.

My copy arrived before the release date, and I devoured it in a few sittings. One of Morgenstern''s strengths as a storyteller is her ability to transport her readers into other worlds, and this same ability is present in _The Starless Sea_, which follows protagonist Zachary Ezra Rawlins through a series of adventures in his quest to solve a mystery.

This book is a page-turner, and it kept me up late so I could try to finish it -- and then once I got to the end, I didn''t want the journey to be over.

Happy reading!
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William F. Wallace
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
content problem
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2019
This is very politically incorrect but it''s my opinion, right? SPOILER ALERT I did not like the tongue cut out either. So unnecessary. I also did not like the homosexual element. Homosexuals are fine with me. They are as normal as anyone, but I just don''t want to read... See more
This is very politically incorrect but it''s my opinion, right? SPOILER ALERT I did not like the tongue cut out either. So unnecessary. I also did not like the homosexual element. Homosexuals are fine with me. They are as normal as anyone, but I just don''t want to read about them. Give me/boy girl stories please?

Those two caused reductions of two stars. The Night Circus may never be surpassed by her or anyone else and it will remain a favorite book.

I will be buying her next book and any one thereafter.
113 people found this helpful
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C. Lira
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This could have been a great book
Reviewed in the United States on November 13, 2019
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I read the author’s previous book(The Night Circus) and clearly she has a powerful, vivid imagination. Her writing is luxurious and deep with feeling(think of a Dave Gilmour guitar solo). Unfortunately, for me, there’s just too... See more
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I read the author’s previous book(The Night Circus) and clearly she has a powerful, vivid imagination. Her writing is luxurious and deep with feeling(think of a Dave Gilmour guitar solo). Unfortunately, for me, there’s just too much going on. Too many threads, too many disjointed parts. Shifting time frames, owl kings, people that are suns or moons, Fate’s heart in a box, etc.

I think if another editing pass or two had been done, and maybe some of it trimmed out, it would have been a great book. The first half is very good, the next quarter less so, but by the time I got to the last 100 pages or so, I just couldn’t get into it anymore and I bailed.
87 people found this helpful
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Kathleen Shannon
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Save your money!
Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2019
I am only 100 pages into this book and honestly I’m not sure whether I’ll finish it or not. When picking up a book is an effort and you decide to clean house instead then there’s a serious problem with the book. I actually pre-ordered this book and was really excited about... See more
I am only 100 pages into this book and honestly I’m not sure whether I’ll finish it or not. When picking up a book is an effort and you decide to clean house instead then there’s a serious problem with the book. I actually pre-ordered this book and was really excited about it. How I wish I had waited and read some reviews first. Frankly it is quite a slog. It’s hard to get invested in a protagonist when every other chapter is a weird descriptive something or a fragment of a story or an “interlude”. I do not enjoy giving negative feedback but I’m hoping that this will help some reader think twice about spending money on this book.
74 people found this helpful
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Muse
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I have very mixed feelings about this book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 14, 2019
3.5/5 stars Like with The Night Circus (TNC), I have very mixed feelings about this book. This started off so well and I fully expected it to be one of my favourite books ever, but sadly, as I got further and further into it, I just became confused and distanced from the...See more
3.5/5 stars Like with The Night Circus (TNC), I have very mixed feelings about this book. This started off so well and I fully expected it to be one of my favourite books ever, but sadly, as I got further and further into it, I just became confused and distanced from the main storyline and characters. I''m actually upset that I didn''t like this more, because the premise sounded so intriguing. I enjoyed the writing for the most part, I devoured the short stories included alongside the main plot and the creativity is incredible. I just think that the author''s imagination sometimes ran away with itself, to the point that the reader got left behind and things didn''t make sense anymore. I love, love, love abstract concepts in books, but I think Morgenstern has a tendency to make things too abstract, so you''re no longer sure what''s going on and the plot seems to fold in on itself. I was desperately waiting for the moment that everything came together, but it just didn''t and so I wouldn''t be able to explain to anyone what the actual plot was, who the main characters actually were as individuals or how or why The Starless Sea even existed. One of the most noticeable things that contributed to the plot being swallowed and made me less invested, was the length of the story itself. This is quite a long book, but in my honest opinion, it really didn''t need to be. It felt like so many of Zachary''s chapters were like fillers in between the short stories and I didn''t care for them as much. Even though Zachary was the protagonist, I don''t think I ever really got him or the other main characters for that matter. They didn''t really have anything to them and we were just told things about them, without delving deeper and so I didn''t form any attachment to or even understand them or know what their innermost feelings or intentions were. I truly felt more connected to the characters and more grounded in general in the short stories than in Zachary''s. I''d heard that there was this amazing m/m love story in this and so even though I wasn''t enjoying it as much as I''d hoped, I was clinging on to the hopes that this relationship could save this a bit for me. However, just like in TNC, the romance didn''t do anything for me whatsoever. Like TNC, the romance just came out of nowhere and I was supposed to just except that these characters had deep and meaningful feelings for one another, even though there was nothing in the text to support this. If it hadn''t been presented as being so intense and life altering, I could have ignored my issues, but the love declarations and stating that the other person was their reason to go on were hard to overlook. I listened to the audio book for this one and the narrators themselves were phenomenal, so it made it even more obvious that the plot just wasn''t working for me. I know that this review has mainly consisted of things I didn''t like, but I really did love the shorter stories in this, the writing and ideas were gorgeous and once again, they reaffirmed my belief that Morgenstern has masses of potential. Therefore, I will still keep picking up any work that she puts out, as I just know that she has the potential to blow me away. I also do want to reread this at some point, as it was a lot to wrap my head around the first time and I hope I''ll have a better experience on my next try.
125 people found this helpful
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The Reading Room
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Snippets of dark tales
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 16, 2019
A dark, brooding novel that has neither a beginning or a resolution – 2 Stars Within the fantastical world that is the setting for most of this novel, the characters spend much of their time wading through honey, and this is what reading this novel felt like much of the...See more
A dark, brooding novel that has neither a beginning or a resolution – 2 Stars Within the fantastical world that is the setting for most of this novel, the characters spend much of their time wading through honey, and this is what reading this novel felt like much of the time too. It’s slow, cloying, and every page seemed to take effort. Here’s why I was disappointed by ‘The Starless Sea’: Structure – Contains a number of short tales that relate to a central story. Presented in a random time sequence, the story arcs are constantly disrupted making reading this novel a very staccato affair. Characters – The author presents characters in different incarnations, however the relationship between them doesn’t always marry with the central theme, and many of the characters motives are left unexplained. Allegory – There is a fine-line between successful and unsuccessful use of allegory, and much of this novel sits right on that line. Morgenstern uses this device a lot, and I found myself growing rather tired of it by the half-way point. Symbolism – Another device used throughout. Again, much of it never fully explained within the text. The inclusion of game theory seemed particularly random. Editing – In my humble opinion, ‘The Starless Sea’ would have benefited from another edit. There were a number of passages that added little to the story. Mood – This is a dark, occasionally violent, and incessantly depressing tale. With the majority of the imagery intended to disturb, don’t expect this to be a feel-good read. Resolution – Morgenstern plays with time in this novel, both the overall theme, and the short tales within it are left open-ended. It has neither a defined beginning or ending in the usual sense. Overall, this was hugely disappointing. Yes, it’s clever in that it breaks the boundaries of genre, and many of the traditional expectations of story structure, but the total effect wasn’t at all pleasing to read.
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Stan-san
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Disappointing 2nd novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 29, 2019
Erin Morgenstern''s first novel The Night Circus was a classy piece of work and always likely to be a hard act to follow. And The Starless Sea, although extremely well written, really doesn''t come anywhere near the quality of The Night Circus. It''s a meta-fiction for a...See more
Erin Morgenstern''s first novel The Night Circus was a classy piece of work and always likely to be a hard act to follow. And The Starless Sea, although extremely well written, really doesn''t come anywhere near the quality of The Night Circus. It''s a meta-fiction for a start, a book about the writing of books, about the telling of stories, and very few writers can do it well. Arturo Pérez-Reverte did it beautifully in The Dumas Club, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón did it wonderfully across all four novels in his Library of Forgotten Books sequence. But The Starless Sea is simply not in the same league. Too much time is wasted wittering on about the various denizens of The Starless Sea and after a while I simply lost interest, something I never did with The Night Circus. The critics may like the book but it did nothing for me.
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The booktrailTop Contributor: Circus
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Magical mystery set in New York and the world of books
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 1, 2019
4.5* This is a magical read. Magical. Set in the world of stories with underground libraries and books everywhere guarded by secret members who arrived in this world through magical doors. They came from the world above, through magical doors painted on to walls. Now they...See more
4.5* This is a magical read. Magical. Set in the world of stories with underground libraries and books everywhere guarded by secret members who arrived in this world through magical doors. They came from the world above, through magical doors painted on to walls. Now they guard the stories, the Starless Sea and look after the humans from above who find a magical portal into their world…. In the world above, the main characters is Zachary who finds a door when he’s very small and doesn’t realise until many years later what it meant. At university, he finds a book. This book contains the story about the day a young boy found a door painted on a wall and who didn’t try to enter it. He knows it’s his story and that first shiver of bookish excitement shimmers its way down your neck. And so starts a journey which takes Zachary to New York’s public library.One of the few real locations in the novel but if people don’t go here to read this book and to see the two stone lions at its entrance, then I will be surprised. What better novel to showcase the magic of NYC library than this one? It’s a portal to the Starless Sea and provides Zachary with a clue to where he must go next in order to find out about his story. Oh the settings are just magical…there’s a literary masquerade ball, a visit to the Strand bookstore and a very magical walk in Central Park. It’s the wonderful underground cavern of stories that is the most magical and the harbour from which you ride on the Starless Sea. This author has one amazingly vivid imagination and this book was a real treat, an experience. The book was cleverly written – that prose is like butter on a hot scone – it oozes down to every level and you taste it throughout the experience. Think of marshmallows on a goblet of hot chocolate – as you sink down into it, immerse yourself fully in the reading. The tasting of each and every word gives you the delicious sense that you are swimming in Erin Morgenstern’s imagination… The story is told in ‘books’ and interludes of stories that at first don’t seem to link to the main thread with Zachary…but they do….oh boy do they. The stories build up to create the world of the Starless Sea and at the same time, Zachary’s descent into this world begins. The flow and mix of the two is a literary lover’s delight. Watch out for the symbols – the bees, the dagger and the keys are strong symbols of the world below. Doorknobs are very important – I swear you’ll be looking at them very differently from now on. The real treat of this novel was how the fantasy world merged seamlessly with the real – at one point Zach goes to a Starbucks and it’s NOT your usual visit… This is a book to discover. I’m not even sure I would know where to start describing all the symbols, characters, clues and why the Starless Sea is made of honey. Although this is clearly a fantasy world, it’s not a fantasy novel…. this is so much more than that. It’s the world of your imagination, layers of stories blending and merging into a picture where the more you look, the more you see. The Starless Sea is a book-lover’s riddle, wrapped in a timeless mystery, inside an literary enigma; and there’s certainly more than one key to unravelling and luxuriating in the world created.
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Inkling
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A dry biscuit.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 7, 2020
Such a profound disappointment. Three or four wonderful sentences to remember amidst jarring moments and rambling themes. Eight years coming, 500 pages. At first I was thrilled. But then it dawned, No plot. The only thing I found compelling was the cat. The Night Circus was...See more
Such a profound disappointment. Three or four wonderful sentences to remember amidst jarring moments and rambling themes. Eight years coming, 500 pages. At first I was thrilled. But then it dawned, No plot. The only thing I found compelling was the cat. The Night Circus was fantastic. This was a waste of time. No one that really loves a good story could find one in this book. There is some lovely descriptive prose but not a spark of real magic or mature narrative talent. Fragmented wanderings do not make a novel. I worry about the author, how could the muse have deserted her so completely? I am flummoxed by the gushing reviews. Yes, the descriptions are lovely but where is the forking story? The first book was so nourishing and this is a dry mind biscuit. Re-read her first book, read Dickens, read a cereal box, but if you must read this then get it at the library and save your £10 for tastier fare.
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