Robyn Reviews: The Starless Sea

“I think the best stories feel like they’re still going, somewhere, out in story space.”

The Starless Sea is a triumph of imagination and wordcraft. It’s ethereal and fantastical and mysterious and breathtakingly bizarre yet beautiful in a way I’ve never known any author but Erin Morgenstern to manage. There is absolutely no way to review this book and do it justice. I went in blind, and I think going in not knowing what to expect is the best way to read this book. It’s an immersive experience and different to any other book I have ever read – in the best way. If you enjoyed Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, you should love this book.

As with The Night Circus, what makes the novel is the writing. Morgenstern writes in a lyrical, almost whimsical fashion and manages to create improbable yet incredibly vivid stories you want to be real. In most books, long passages of description are dull and pull you out of the story – in Morgenstern’s books, they make the story. I understand that it isn’t a writing style that suits everyone, but for those who’ve always longed for something more, for a world bigger than it is, for the improbable and supernatural and a little sprinkle of magic – this is the book for you. Morgenstern writes for the dreamers. The Night Circus was like a dream. The Starless Sea is like a cross between a dream and the world’s most immersive video game, with hidden references to every notable work of literature published in the last few hundred years.

The novel centers around Zachary Ezra Rawlins – full name emphasised – an Emerging Media Studies student and the sweetest, most delightful human being of all time. He’s an avid reader and video gamer and beyond all, a dreamer. He believes in the possibility of More. Zachary is the sort of character anyone would want to be friends with, and it’s a pleasure to spend time with him on his journey. His friendship with Kat is truly heartwarming and would bring a smile to anyone’s face.

“A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun”

The other characters are each delightful in their own way – the wonderful Kat, mysterious Dorian, enigmatic Mirabel, sweet Eleanor, intriguing Allegra – but, my fellow readers, I will leave them for you to discover. You only get to discover this book for the first time once, and I don’t want to do anything to minimise that experience for you.

The only tiny, tiny quibble I have with this book is its ending. I don’t love it quite as much as I love The Night Circus because the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying to me. That being said, it’s still an excellent ending – it just didn’t ring the note that I wanted.

Enjoy your first journey to The Starless Sea. Someday I hope to see you on the shore.


Published by Harvill Secker / Vintage
Hardback: 9th November 2019
Paperback: 6th August 2020


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