Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea is a magical, mythical, fantastical story about stories. As with her debut novel, The Night Circus, I was right there for every step of the journey, excited to see what wonder would come next.
At a young age, Zachary Ezra Rawlins discovers a door painted on a wall behind his house. He doesn’t open it, and the next day it’s gone.
“A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun.”
Zachary doesn’t know this would have led to a vast library deep underground, a harbour on a sea of honey, only accessible from the world above via doors such as these. Many years later, he stumbles across a book in his university library which includes a tale of the day he didn’t open his painted door. Curiosity drives him to hunt for the truth, following the symbols of the bee, key and sword which are present throughout the story. The account of Zachary’s quest is intertwined with self-contained fairy tales and other stories from the mysterious library book – other books too – each woven through to build the characters, their worlds and their stories.
“Do you believe in the mystical, the fantastical, the improbable, or the impossible? Do you believe that things others dismiss as dreams and imagination actually exist? Do you believe in fairy tales?”
After a few not-so-subtle hints my fiance bought me a signed hardback copy for Christmas, and it is gorgeous.
I loved the mystery, the gorgeous imagery, the discovery, the romance and the danger. It was a magical story of libraries, cats, gays, games, cocktails, adventure, intrigue, and love. I was there for it all. And even now, weeks after finishing The Starless Sea, I keep finding myself thinking about Zachary and his world.
Here are a few quotes to give a flavour:
- “It doesn’t look like anything special, like it contains an entire world, though the same could be said of any book.”
- “Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.”
- “This person is a place Zachary could lose himself in, and never wish to be found.”
- “For those who feel homesick for a place they’ve never been to. Those who seek even if they do not know what (or where) it is that they are seeking. Those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.”
- “I accepted because mysterious ladies offering bourbon under the stars is very much my aesthetic.”
- “Do you believe in the mystical, the fantastical, the improbable, or the impossible? Do you believe that things others dismiss as dreams and imagination actually exist? Do you believe in fairy tales?”
- “She is young enough to carry fear with her without letting it into her heart. Without being scared. She wears her fear lightly, like a veil, aware that there are dangers but letting the crackling awareness hover around her. It does not sink in, it buzzes in excitement like a swarm of invisible bees.”
- “Reading a novel, he supposes, is like playing a game where all the choices have been made for you ahead of time by someone who is much better at this particular game. (Though he sometimes wishes choose-your-own-adventure novels would come back into fashion.)”
- “This is not where our story ends, he writes. This is only where it changes.”