Characters & their development: 5
Personal enjoyment: 5
-that it had to end
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious 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 his own 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, and through a doorway to an ancient 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, 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 handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
I am blown away and awestruck by this book. The Starless Sea is in contender ship for my favourite book of the year, seriously.
The Starless Sea is a novel that follows our protagonist Zachary, he is a uni student studying a masters degree in gaming. Of course, he believes in what is real, loves stories and doesn’t believe in magic. But this fortune-tellers son has a secret. When he was young, he stumbled across a painted door. One that looked so real he could touch it. But he didn’t. That moment has haunted him for his whole life, and in this story, we see where that door opens to.
First of all, this is one of those books. You will either adore it or hate it and I was lucky enough to fall on the adoring side. The writing is over the top, in what I think is the best way. It is poetic and is written like you are curled in bed, listening to a storyteller weave their tale. There are brackets and thoughts, stories within stories and rambling moments, and every single one of them was glorious.
Let’s talk characters. Zachary is someone I wish I could meet, just to hug him. He is sweet and lifelike. His despair and confusion over his life is something we all relate to well, and then he truly grows into himself as he reaches the starless sea. Dorian, is the most handsome explorer ever, running barefoot through caverns and pulling the story this way and that way. Not to mention Mirabelle and the Harbour Master. Every character I loved, and every villain I loathed and felt bad for. Erin truly painted characters that stole your heart.
Plot-wise, this novel takes a while to make sense and you’re left guessing a lot of the time which is right up my alley. There are these stories from within a book that a character finds that you get to read. They’re interspersed throughout the novel and then woven between them is the story as it unfolds. I really love how there are these two distinct narratives going on and while it can be confusing, overall the conclusion to it is just so damn satisfying.
Okay okay okay, I’ll end this with two thoughts I had while reading this and if you’ve read it, I bet you know the moments I’m talking about.
First was when I literally had to shut the book and whisper “oh my god hes gay” bc, well LGBTQIA+ rep people!!!!!
and then another was when I sent my dog into a spiral of excitement because I couldn’t stop giggling that “thaTS WHO THE KITCHEN IS OH MY GOD I LOVE THE KITCHEN”
A N Y W A Y S, go buy this book right now people.