The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea

A Novel

Book - 2019
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a rare 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 hisown 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, andthrough a doorway to a subterranean 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 of honey, 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 those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a beautiful barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of thismagical world, discovering his purpose--in both the rare book and in his own life"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2019]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385541213
Branch Call Number: F MOR
Characteristics: pages cm
Alternative Title: Starless sea


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 13, 2020

Very bizarre & convoluted story, interspersed with fairytales, that all very bizarrely wind up being related. Wondering if the idea of the various doors was inspired by “Being Erica” - that’s what it reminded me of, so if you enjoy this story, you might want to check out that Canadian tv series.
It took me a long time to read this, because I kept having to go back & re-read previous chapters to figure out what was going on. There are very few unimportant details. You might want to start a list of characters & relationships.

AndreaG_KCMO Mar 09, 2020

Magical. And bizarre. But magical like a honey-covered dream.

Mar 01, 2020

I read this for the "Recommend to you by Amazon" part of my 2020 reading challenge. I was in love by page 19. I liked the characters and the entire idea of the doors and the Harbor and I loved all the little literary references through out and I loved the magic and whimsy of it all. I don't normally like short stories but I couldn't get enough of the ones mixed into this book.

Chapel_Hill_SarahW Feb 25, 2020

I really wanted to like this book; I adored Morgenstern's The Night Circus. For me, the plot was hard to follow, and I felt like I didn't know what was happening for most of the book. However, I did love the interwoven stories and narratives. The idea of fantasy bleeding into life is lovely; Morgenstern creates a beautiful world and endearing characters.

Feb 18, 2020

Book Club - December

IndyPL_SteveB Feb 11, 2020

"Phantasmagoric” -- “a fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery, as in dreams.” That fits this book. Morgenstern’s new novel is not a sequel to *The Night Circus* (which is one of my all-time favorite books) but the writing style and subject matter are familiar. Dreams, magic, interwoven plot lines, time distortion, writing so imaginative yet specifically placed that you almost feel like you are in the book.

Morgenstern tells her tale in a manner similar to *The Night Circus*, jumping from tale to tale, back and forth in time, to build up an overall image that is unclear until the very end, like a trick picture where you only see unconnected bits and pieces, leaving you to guess what the final picture will be. In addition to being fascinated, I was very impressed with her ability to hold the complex plot together and to make every seemingly unrelated story thread become a part of the full tapestry. And of course, sentences that you have never read before. “Then a door catches his eye. A wardrobe overflowing with books has been placed partially in front of it, leaving it half hidden or half found.” You have read “half-hidden” before, but who has paired that with “half-found”?

It’s probably best not to start this until you have some time to dream. A second reading is definitely a good idea.

Jan 29, 2020

Modern Mrs Darcy

Jan 23, 2020

I was a huge fan of The Night Circus when it came out. And thus, became a big fan of Ms. Morgenstern's writing. Very few authors write in such a vivid, poetic way that you can see, hear, touch, and feel what the characters are experiencing.
Although The Starless Sea is equally as vivid and poetic, I have mixed feelings. It is a wondrous story for sure, but moves very very slowly and I felt like I had a hard time keeping track of what was going on- especially in the second half. Like I was missing information that should've already been known to fully grasp the entire tale.
But a solid novel overall.

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 21, 2020

The Night Circus came out in 2012 and while many liked it, it reached a cult-like *LOVE* status for many readers, and I was among them. So nearly eight years later, when Morgenstern’s next novel, The Starless Sea, was released, I was waiting with bated breath. Could it live up to The Night Circus? Would it succumb to the sophomore slump? And I’m happy to report that while The Starless Sea has some problems, it hits so many right notes, so many more complex notes, while it maintains the magically atmospheric writing of The Night Circus, that it’s a novel well-worth your time. The Starless Sea is a book to savour slowly, a book for those who love to read; it is Paris after dark, and subtle inside jokes. In other words, The Starless Sea was worth the wait.

The novel follows Zachary Ezra Rawlins, an Emerging Media grad student. This means he studies video games and game theory. This is a book about how Zachary finds a book, a door, a friend, and a love. It is also the story of Fate and Time and an underground world of books. It is also the story of Simon and Eleanor and how they find and then lose each other. Mostly, The Starless Sea is a very long love letter to readers. It’s the kind of book I’ll probably buy, even though I love my library, because I want to highlight and make notes in it. In structure the closest thing I can compare it to is Catch-22 with stories inside stories (here literally) and convoluted time lines. There is a lot of writing *about* writing, about what makes a story good, about the transitory nature of printed books, about what it means to love books. At one point Zachary worries, “that who he is, or who he thinks he is, is just a collection of references to other people’s art and he is so focused on story and meaning and structure that he wants his world to have all of it neatly laid out and it never, ever does and he fears it never will.”

There are nods that are direct, like the mention of Zachary returning The Shadow of the Wind to the library, to more subtle, like the party he attends at The Algonquin hotel, or his friend Kat’s journal in which she writes “that’s how the light gets in and all that.” And while these are all those references to "other people’s art," they each felt like a secret handshake, an acknowledgment that we’re the readers who find something deep, sweet and affirming in the stories we share.

Jan 17, 2020

If you liked her first book you will really enjoy this one. It takes time to read as there is so much too take in. You will never look at doors the same way. Also cats and libraries under ground. A great deal of imagination went into the writing of this wonderful story, however I think the ending was speeded up to end the story quickly after dragging it out for so long.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"She gave me an opaque plastic cup identical to the one I'd abandoned inside but with better bourbon in it, on the rocks.

I accepted because mysterious ladies offering bourbon under the stars is very much my aesthetic."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"But he's hardly looking at the book and barely eating his noodles. He sucks at subtlety. He's watching me write. Eyeing up my journal like he's trying to figure out how he's going to snag it when I'm not looking.

I'm always looking now.

You will pry this Adventure Time notebook from my cold dead hands, ya ding-dong."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"They asked if I thought he would have done something- like jumped-off-a-bridge something- and I said I didn't think so, but I also think most of us are two steps away from jumping off something most of the time and you never know if the next day is going to push you in one direction or another."

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"'A book is an interpretation,' she says. 'You want a place to be like it was in the book but it's not a place in a book it's just words. The place in your imagination is where you want to go and that place is imaginary. This is real,' she places her hand on the wall in front of them. The stone is cracked near her fingers, a fissure running down the side and disappearing into a column. 'You could write endless pages but the words will never be the place.'"

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"'We've been having adventures, Rhyme,' Mirabel says and the girl frowns. 'There was a daring rescue and bondage and tea and a fire and two-thirds of us got poisoned. Also, this is Zachary, Zachary this is Rhyme.'"

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 19, 2020

"A reading major, that's what he wants. No response papers, no exams, no analysis, just the reading."

IndyPL_MarianneK Oct 22, 2019

"To Seeking" "To Finding"


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at OCFPL

To Top