The Starless Sea

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The spellbinding new novel from the Top Ten bestselling author of The Night Circus. 'Radiates with the excitement of someone discovering a magical world within the pages of a book. An enchanting read... an ode to stories and storytelling itself, and the joy of reading' Independent Are you lost or are you exploring? When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and ...

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alecia a f

Jun 7, 2020

A lyically written bad acid trip

The story centers around an enormous, underground, labyrinthine library which apparently contains all the books, and the stories in the world. The starless sea (also underground - thus no stars) is mentioned periodically, but does not have a major role, so I don't know why the book name. Also, I can't tell if this book is a standalone or one of a series, and frankly, I don't much care - I had to force myself to finish it, gritting my teeth through to the end (if it wasn't part of a book club, I wouldn't have bothered)

The main character seems to be Zachary Ezra Rawlings (whose whole name is repeated ad infinitum), a 20-something grad student from VT who's gotten involved in games about which he knows nothing, but it takes over his life. Other rather main characters include Dorian (Zachary's putative lover); and Mirabel/Max/serving girl - whose actions appear to drive the action. More minor characters include Allegra (the villain). the Keeper/pirate, (one of whose roles seems to be gate keeper); Kat (Zachary's college friend); Madame Rawlings (Zachary's fortune telling mother); the lovers, Simon & Eleanor/Lenore/the girl (who insists neither are her name); the sun, the moon, the inn keeper; and the Kitchen (yeah, it's a character), and Winston Churchill may have a walk-on role. As noted, many of the characters have multiple names, and their backgrounds often don't have either a beginning or an end, (or both) which is frustrating. If it sounds confusing, it is.

Erin loves words, and she uses way too many of them - this book could be 100 pages shorter and still make about as much sense as it does now. The author has a thing about bees, owls, feathers, statuary, swords, hearts, stags, books, honey, and, especially, doors - the last feature prominently throughout. And the amount of time the characters spend wandering around the various sections of the library gets to be a drag (see 100 pages shorter, above). She has a taste for sadism (which I found off-putting); was influenced by Charles Dodgson; and she meanders through this book with disjointed bits of the story in separate chapters (if they can be called chapters - in some cases, vignettes would be more apt). She also committed the cardinal authorial sin, by using coincidence to get herself out of boxes she's written herself into.

She writes beautifully, no doubt: it is the most beautifully written stupid book I've ever read.

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