The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

5/5 Stars

“Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the pages become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are.”

What follows is an arc review from roughly a year ago when I first read this book. A year and over a dozen purchased copies later, the review itself is quite old now, but I feel just as strongly today about this book as I do now. I’m a few days out from my first reread, and a week out from getting a Starless Sea tattoo, and I thought that this review should finally have a home on this blog.

The Starless Sea is Erin Morgenstern’s upcoming novel, following the highly acclaimed The Night CircusThe Starless Sea is a ballad of stories, composed entirely of alternating short stories found in the Starless Sea to the main story itself, one that has been in the making for thousands of years. Written in Morgenstern’s lush and descriptive style, The Starless Sea takes you on a journey that you wish would never end.

The experience of getting this ARC was so surreal that I still don’t believe I actually got it, that I held it in my hands, and that I read it. Was this all just a fever dream? It very well could be. The Starless Sea was just too good for it to be actually real.

But it is, and it comes out in a few short months, and all of you need to get your hands on it, whether you’ve been following Morgenstern since The Night Circus or if this is your first book of hers (it was mine!). There aren’t many books I’d say this for, but there’s something in this book for everyone to love. It’s a book for readers about readers, written in a poetic and fantastical style that makes even the most mundane of scenes seem utterly fantastic. I was in love with every short story, every chapter, every interlude, whether they lasted one page or several. The Starless Sea is built out of a myriad of storytelling elements, and the way Morgenstern weaves them all together is a sight to behold.

This book is much greater than the sum of its parts, but I still have to commend Morgenstern on how well plotted, thought out, and written every aspect of this book was. The characters felt wholly real and realistically motivated, all of them escaping standard cookie cutter tropes. They were characters you fell in love with on page one, from their way of seeing the world and their interactions with it to how they thought and talked and loved. This love only grows stronger with each page as these characters fall in love with The Starless Sea and the stories as you, the reader, do as well. I’d die for any of these characters anyday.

The world and plot were absolutely fantastic as well. They were weaved together quite closely, with knowledge of one revealing the path of the other, and it created such a seamless, well-paced story. There were no jarring moments of info-dumps, no moments of you knowing something the characters don’t (you learn from the stories as the characters do), no moments of the plot outpacing what you know about the world and can understand of it. It was just so well done that I can marvel at it on just a technical level, ignoring the emotional impact of it all.

All of this is further tied together by the writing style itself. It’s an interesting and unique style, one composed of strings of fairly ‘simple’ sentences in such a way that leaves the reader hooked, beautifully visualizes scenes and moments, and imbues the entire novel with a sense of wonder, magic, and mysticism. It’s such a hard style to pin down and therefore makes it a joy to read.

The Starless Sea has left me a forever fan of Morgenstern, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next (after reading The Night Circus, which has just been hardcore pushed up on my tbr). I cannot wait until everyone has the joy of reading this masterpiece.

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