"The Starless Sea" Book Review

Updated on February 28, 2020
Victoria C Cook profile image

I'm a lover of everything written. I am happiest when I have a book, a paintbrush or pen in my hand.

An Overview of The Book

Zackary Ezra Rawlins is a young man searching for himself, always caught between the simplicities of life... books, video games, and love. He enjoys his simple life but can't shake the feeling that fate has bigger things in mind for him.

When Zackary was a boy on his way home from school one day he stumbled across a door painted on a wall. He debated attempting to open that door however, logic took hold of him at that moment and the door remained forever closed. What Zackary did not know at that time was that that particular door led to a labyrinth of tunnels and corridors filled with magic, stories, and the infamous starless sea. He didn't know that beneath the world was another brimming with possibility and adventure. Now Zackary is no longer a child, but a man in his 20's and he's ready to sail the starless sea, all he has to do is step through the doorway and see what fate has in store.

This is the rabbit hole.

— The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Bad First

Like anything in life sometimes I feel it's just better to get the bad news over with first. The truth is, I had high hopes for the novel and I was left a little disappointed. A few years ago I had read Erin Morgenstern's debut novel "The Night Circus" and loved it! It was a magical remake of a classic "Romeo and Juliet" style. Her writing style was elegant yet insightful, and the romance was a great slow burn. I gave this novel five stars I loved it so much. Don't get me wrong "The Starless Sea" was not trash by any means. Erin's writing is still beautiful and poetic but I am going to list the 3 reasons I knocked the novel down so much in rating.

1. Awkward Flow

So what is an "awkward flow" you may be asking yourselves? An awkward flow to me basically means that rather than flowing smoothly and naturally down a lazy river, the reader is sent down rapids with lots of big rocks to avoid. One minute Zackary is in school with friends, the next he is underground and all of a sudden he's in love with a man he barely knows. It wasn't smooth and felt a bit like Morgenstern had so much content she wanted to mush into one book that she forgot to add commas along the way.

2. Character and Relationship Development

So this point very much relates to my previous point about flow in the sense that I'm not fully sure in the chaos when Zackary's character developed let alone fell in love with Dorian. Zackary as the main character, his purpose is to I presume to save the day. He starts off the novel like most an ordinary man/ boy and is meant to develop into something bigger than himself, which he does. Typically these things happen through hardships and life challenges. With Zackary, he quite literally goes from being ordinary to the underground, to everyone's only hope and the man who will save the starless sea. Not to mention totally head over heels in love with a guy he doesn't know and the readers only actually meet for my guess 30 pages of this 512-page novel.

Having a physical reaction to a lack of book is not unusual.

— The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

3. What Exactly Was The Plot?

This may sound a bit silly but once I got to the middle of the book, I stopped and thought to myself. "Okay so where exactly is this going and what is Zackarys main drive as a character?" Literally just after I thought this I think Morgenstern had the same thought while writing the novel for I kid you not (and I wish I had my notes on me while I read this to quote it) but she basically had Zackary's character say the same thing along the lines of "what is the point of this, and what is my goal here" but never answers it. Zackary is simply a pawn that the reader is meant to fallow while a series of uncontrollable events take place that he has no choice in the outcome.

It Wasn't All Bad

So with the bad also comes a great deal of good with this novel, I think that's also why I felt so disappointed. There was so much potential for "The Starless Sea" to be an amazing, unforgettable read.

1. Short Stories Between Chapters

The reader starts the novel off with a beautiful short story about a pirate and girls, and then another mesmerizing story of a young woman finding her voice just before she gives it away for life. These stories continue throughout the novel, with there purpose showing more and more as you shift to the novel's conclusion. I've personally heard many mixed reviews about these stories however I looked forward to them and actually found them more interesting and the characters more full in quality. Part of what drove me through this book was these stories and how magical an experience they were.

2. Elegantly Written

Morgenstern has without a doubt mastered the art of written word in my opinion as a non-professional but avid reader. Especially without giving to much away at the end. Much of her writing feels like reading a poem, it absorbs you right into the words and everything is so visual, with so many senses that it feels as though you are truly living in that moment with the characters.

Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.

— "The Starless Sea" by Erin Morgenstern

3. Strong Beginning and Ending

When referring to the basic components of a story most individuals will say a good story starts with a beginning, a middle and an end. The middle is honestly the only part of "The Starless Sea" that lacks. The intro is completely hypnotic, I could not put the book down even if I wanted to. The ending was incredible and left on quite the cliff hanger that I can honestly say I will be looking forward to its sequel.


My Final Thoughts

Even though "The Starless Sea" is not the best book I have ever read, I can honestly say I enjoyed it. Erin Morgenstern created such a vivid world that honestly, I feel she just didn't get enough page space to truly and sufficiently project all that I'm certain she wanted to. I'm happy I read this novel for it was such a tribute to avid readers like myself, it was like satisfying a craving you didn't know you wanted. I do recommend this novel to any reader looking for some word candy and promise that you won't be disappointed. "The Starless Sea" I believe to be a series that will only go up from here!


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