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First Look Club: Jean reviews The Starless Sea

First Look Club: Jean reviews The Starless Sea


By Erin Morgenstern

Publication date: November 5, 2019

Reviewed by Jean Arboleda

We are a species that survives on stories. We tell them, embellish them, record and preserve them, bring them from medium to medium. We hand them down to the next generation like precious inheritances. The details may change, or vary from society to society, but the stories, in their purest form, remain the same. They give us the space to imagine ourselves and understand the world. As Joan Didion once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

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

What would you say if you were told that far below the surface of the earth, on the shores of the Starless Sea, sits an ancient library? A sprawling haven where myths and fables are told and re-told, wrapped in silk, or written on scrolls, or carved in stone. A space outside, or not entirely within, the confines of time and space and reality, where bees are humble hosts, and pirates are metaphors, and endings are not truly endings. A sacred space to be revered and protected and guarded, from those who wish to watch it burn.

What if you discovered a door that would take you there? Would you open it?

For 11-year-old Zachary Ezra Rawlins, the answer was a halting, hesitant no. The next day, the door was gone. Years later, Zachary, now a graduate student in Vermont, stumbles upon a mysterious book in the library—and amongst the tales of acolytes and keys and kings, he finds an account of that hazy, half-remembered childhood incident. Now Zachary, with the mysterious Dorian and charming Mirabel as his companions, must embark on a quest to discover his purpose and decide his fate in this magical world.

“This is not where our story ends. This is only where it changes.”

It is almost impossible to summarize Erin Morgenstern’s breathtaking new novel. It escapes easy definition and casual reading. This is a book that must be savored, and absorbed. It has been eight years since her bestselling debut novel The Night Circus, and now she is back, and in top form. With The Starless Sea, she has convincingly conjured a place that feels so real that you immediately want to step foot into it. Morgenstern masterfully weaves several shimmering threads of narrative together into a beautiful ode to true love that endures across time and space. It is strange and beautiful and feels like home. And I didn’t want it to end.

“Those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.”

The Starless Sea is a book about stories­­ within stories, about worlds within pages. It is a love letter to the people who love stories, and will do what it takes to protect them, even if it means letting them evolve and change. It is for the people who still believe in fairy tales, who still wait for their letter from Hogwarts, who still enter wardrobes in search of Narnia. It is for you, dear reader, if you have always felt like you never quite belonged, and are still in search of adventure.

The Starless Sea is a door, waiting for you to open it.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern is available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online.

Jean will try anything once. She has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands. On any given day, she would rather be reading, preferably surrounded by puppies. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jeanarboleda.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]