The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea

Where to even begin with The Starless Sea… a miscellany of imagination, this is the kind of book I love to get lost in. And in this case, by lost I mean quite literally I had no idea what was going on. Yet somehow, it all still made sense. Well, up until a certain point for me anyway (I’ll come on to that).

Erin Morgenstern’s first novel, The Night Circus, is one of my favourite books of all time, so I’ve been looking forward to delving into The Starless Sea for ages. The Starless Sea unveils a world far below the surface of the Earth, where stories permeate into the existence of everything. Time moves around in unexpected ways, and doors open into places you’ll never find again (this element actually reminded me of The Ten Thousand Doors of January). A sea of honey recedes and swells in unpredictable ways. There are owls and cats and bees. Harbours and Keepers and keys. Absolute nonsensical yet believable tales intertwining Time, Fate and the Moon.

“Passionate love stories that were manipulated into the vacancies between raindrops and vanished the end of the storm.

Tragedies intricately poured from bottles of wine and sipped thoughtfully with melancholy and fine cheeses.

Fairy tales shaped from sand and seashells on shorelines slowly swept away by softly lapping waves.”

Slid between the pages like scrap paper bookmarks are excerpts from the stories at home in the Harbours of the Starless Sea, each with its own significance to the events unfolding above the surface. They are random interjections, which kind of made sense to me for most of the novel (in the best way that incongruent capsules of time and place can make sense).

It’s a mind-blowing feat of make-believe.

But at some point for me, it tipped over the edge of enjoyable lunacy into frustratingly haphazard. For someone who is a bit of a control freak in life (I already feel my friends scoffing at how understated that is!) I quite like a level of mystery when it comes to fantasy writing; I don’t need things to be fully explained. Towards the crescendo at the end of the novel, things became spoiled for me for this very reason. Throw in a random white rabbit never to be seen again a bunch of talking bees and you’ve got an ending out of tune with the rest of the narrative. Everything else, although also a little bit bizarre, did have its purpose to one extent or another.

But aside from a disappointing ending (in my point of view) I implore anyone to read The Starless Sea. It’s made for book lovers, especially those who appreciate the magic of stories and the agency we have to write our own. It explores the human tendencies to mull over missed opportunities, and to always want to be part of something bigger.

Plus I marvel like a fangirl at Erin Morgenstern’s descriptive writing, and how she strings unexpected words together to produce a picture so tangible.

“Everyone wants the stars. Everyone wishes to grasp that which exists out of reach. To hold the extraordinary in their hands and keep the remarkable in their pockets.”

“There are so many pieces to a person. So many small stories and so few opportunities to read them.”

“We are all stardust and stories”

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