'The Starless Sea' Book Review

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

Book: The Starless Sea Author: Erin Morgenstern Genre: Fantasy, Fiction Pages: 488 (Kindle) Published: November 2019 (UK) My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Good morning everyone! Today's book review is of my most favourite book of the year - it's 'The Starless Sea' by Erin Morgenstern. Enjoy!


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 that 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 knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, 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 that 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 back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. 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 each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

(Synopsis from Goodreads - Link)


The only way to describe this book is that it's like walking through a dream. Erin Morgenstern, I name thee my new favourite author! Incredible, magical, moving and so imaginative - absolutely flawless.

I'm still utterly confused and I think it'll take a while for my brain to fully process this one - but I loved it. Really, really loved it. I just loved it, okay?! Everyone should go and read this book right now. I'm not really into fantasy books - they're just not my thing but this one... oh, this one is SO worth the read.

Okay, let's backtrack a little here. As explained in the synopsis, Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a book in his campus library with no author name or publication date but that's not what concerns Zachary... as more importantly, he discovers that he's mentioned within it! His new discovery leads him on an adventure, as he soon meets the mysterious so-called Dorian who prefers to keep his identity a secret, and also Mirabel with her pink hair and incredible painting skills. Without much choice, Zachary soon finds himself pushed through a door into a world that I could never ever describe as well as Morgenstern herself! Deep dark tunnels providing an unlimited collection of books, secret doors and passageways leading further underground, beautiful ballrooms and very friendly kitchen staff who can cook any meal you wish - what's not to love? Will Zachary be able to leave? Will he want to? And what adventures and discoveries are to be found within the Starless Sea and its Harbour?

So, I think it's important for me to discuss the structure first - because with this book, you don't just get the one story, ohh no, you get a wonderful collection that come together into one. You get to share a prison cell with a pirate, feels the chills of the wind at the Inn and explore tunnels as a bunny. Morgenstern lets you read Zachary's book along with him, before exploring Dorian's too and a couple more for good measure. It's confusing yet so beautifully put together that you can't help but feel that you're there exploring all of this underground world with them.

As for the characterisation - it's a literary dream! Zachary throws in so many book references and is surprisingly down-to-earth throughout his ordeal, using sarcasm when things get a bit much and humour when the time is right. Dorian too is mysterious and deep with his starry coat and whispered stories, yet he has a soft side really! There's so many characters with different personalities that I couldn't possibly mention them all, yet each one brings something different and provides another twist.

And how can I not mention the writing style?! The descriptions and imagery that she provides are outstanding; her imagination has no limits. To describe the journey through dark tunnels lit only by candlelight, exploring busy cities, through snowstorms and golden seas with such skill and yet also manage to turn the simplest of things into something magical - a glass of wine for instance:

'Zachary picks up her glass of wine from the table and takes a sip of it. It tastes like winter sun and melting snow, bubbles bright and sharp and bursting. There is a story here for each bubble in each bottle, in every glass in every sip.'

This one really is a book lover's paradise - there's plenty of Potter mentions and even a quick search for Narnia! It had a 'The Ten Thousand Doors of January' feel to it; which I also loved, so if you enjoyed that book - you'll probably love this one too! Naturally, I give this book a rating of 5 Stars (I'd give it more if I could!), with a LGBTQ+ love story, plenty of adventure - and did I mention the writing?! Loved, loved, loved. Highly recommend.

Have you read Erin Morgenstern's 'The Starless Sea'? Did you love it as much as I did?

If you'd like to read my review of Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus', click here.

Take care,

Sophie x

'The Starless Sea', Erin Morgenstern

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