Recommendation: “The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern

When he was a child, Zachary Ezra Rawlins found a door drawn onto a wall but didn’t walk through it.

Ten years later, the discovery of a mysterious book that somehow describes in detail the day he didn’t walk through the door leads him to meet Mirabel and Dorian, and a strange subterranean set of tunnels filled with an impossible collection of books and stories. However, even as he tries to make sense of this new world he must come up against those who are willing to sacrifice anything in order to protect the library.

Now Zachary must find the truth, and make his way deeper into the library to the Starless Sea itself.

After The Night Circus jumped straight up until my favourite books, and lingered on my mind for days after reading, I was very excited for Morgenstern’s follow up.

This is a story about stories, and it is intricate and woven around itself. But as beautifully written as it is, I will say I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did her debut. That’s not to say this isn’t a great book, just that my personal tastes lean that way. This is a very cleverly crafted story about the nature of story itself, and as can sometimes happen this cleverness detracts from the act of enjoyment.

Morgenstern intersperses each chapter of the plot with a short interstitial story that either expands the backstory or explores elements of the plot. By the end of the book all of these come together in an intricate pattern, but by the half way point I did feel they led to some sagging in the pace. I was hooked at the beginning, and the ending literally caught me tightly so I finished the book in one three hour sitting as I couldn’t put it down. But in the middle I began to find it harder to keep up my engagement.

But don’t think there was any point I didn’t want to keep reading, and boy is it rewarding to get through. There was a point where I worried the plot would lean to far toward “literary fiction”, and make the grave but all too common error of confusing unnecessary complication for smart writing, but instead everything came together in a beautiful finish that managed to answer enough questions to satisfy while leaving the perfect amount open ended.

There’s a reason why I finished the book in a single three hour sitting. It’s been a while since I was so satisfied to be exhausted the next morning after reading until 2am.

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