The Starless Sea

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

  • Author : Erin Morgenstern
  • Pages : 500
  • Genre : Fantastique / Urban Fantasy
  • Translation coming on October 1st 2020

Summary :

When he was young, Zachary Ezra Rawlins found a door, painted on a wall behind his house. He never tried to open it. Now in college, 25 years old Zachary finds a book at the library. It is a collection of stories, more like fairy tales, about a place called The Starless Sea. One of them is about The son of the fortune teller, who found a painted door on a wall and never opened it. He never opened it because he did not know it was the beggining of his story. But it is never to late to enter it.

My Opinion :

The plot

We follow Zachary in his journey through a story he does not fully understand. There is not much happening but more questionning, assimilating and figuring what is happening to him. He is dragged into something he never imagined could be real, without really wanting it in the first place. He discovers he is a part of a bigger story whether he want it or not. So we follow him and the characters he meet, discovering, getting lost, figuring who they are and what is their part in this bigger confusing story.

The singularity of this novel and what made me fall in love with it right away is the chapters alternation between chapters following the main character and other chapters narrating bits of the books Zachary discovers throughout his journey. These bits read like fairy tales, they are beautifully written and enchanting. They really contribute to the story and sometimes I was more interested in these chapters than in the « main ones ». The purpose of this narration is to give keys to unravel the story Zachary is struggling to understand and we soon discover throughout the book that all of these bits of stories are connected to one another. When I was putting down the starless sea to do something else, several times my mind stayed in the story and was trying to put the pieces of what I read together, making theories about connections, which character is which in reality… And at the second I finished it, I wanted to start it all over again because that is how amazing it was.

The characters

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a character I loved reading about. He is this 25 years old gay guy, a little bit lost in life, struggling to make friends and spending all his free time at the university library. As a son of a fortune teller, he is very down-to-earth. Actually, what I really liked about him is that he never fully believes in this magical world he discovers, which is something I never saw in a book before.

« Zachary Ezra Rawlins stares into a wardrobe that contains only a great deal of sweaters and linen shirts and trousers and questions his sanity again. »

There is actually one of my favourite thing to read in this book : the character who discovered magic is real is suddenly dragged into reality and every element is made to make him believe none of what he lived before is real and he imagined everything. Quite often, his mental health is something he struggled with in the past so he has a real reason to question his lucidity.

I liked the other characters even if they were not as developped as Zachary. The relationships felt a bit rushed but because the book reads like a fairy tale, it is not annoying. What I mean by that is that we know what happens to the characters is meant to happen anyway, so in a sense, a « love at first sight » is believable in these circumstances.

The writing

The writing style is what made me fall in love with the story at the first sentence. Erin Morgenstern knows how to use words to make you feel the power of her story. She created a full lenght novel that feels like a million fairy tales at a time, inspired by Harry Potter, Narnia, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and litterature in general. When I was reading, I wrote this sentence that reflects perfectly what the story is about : « One story becomes many and yet, the many is actually one ». The author created a one of a kind story with a level of intrication I did not believe was possible.

Erin Morgenstern is especially talented to transliterate the feelings of confusion, fever and dreams. The harbors described in the novel are mazes full of books and hidden doors that lead to other places and even other timelines. And as I was reading, I was telling myself that reading this book was like being in an actual labyrinthine : every page leads you to something else and instead of unravelling the story, it confuses it even more. Even the ending leaves you with questions and confusion and theories about what this book was actually about. This is something I adored and that is why this novel especially leaves its mark on me.

Sum Up and Rating :

Positive :

  • The one of a kind writing
  • The complexity of the story (stories)
  • The originality of the characters

Negative :

  • The exact same ones if you are not into those kind of weird stories
  • The open ending

You may have understand it by now but the Starless Sea is one of my new favourite book of all time and my favourite book of the year so far. The story, the writing style, the characters, everything in this novel spoke to me in a particular way. I obviously give this book a 20/20 and highly recommand it to anyone sensible to this kind of weird and confusing urban fantasy with extra flowery writing style.