The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Night Circus is one of my favourite books. I reread it every few years and have been waiting for Morgenstern to write another book. The Starless Sea was published in 2019 and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.

This is a story about stories, told in fragments, between pages of other books, through mazes, puzzles, time and fate. I’m a sucker for books about books and good prose. Morgenstern does an amazing job with both of those.

Like The Night Circus, The Starless Sea is a prose heavy book. This is Morgenstern’s main strength. I do think the characters were not as strong as The Night Circus. Zachary is an interesting character, but he’s largely pulled into the story by other people and events. This can be exciting, following a character as they’re pulled into a secret world. But there were parts where I just really wanted him to make a decision himself and take action.

I do think this is a great book though. The Night Circus is still my favourite book by Morgenstern. But in all the years since her debut was published, I’ve never found another book with the same kind of prose and capable of envoking the samle feelings as The Night Circus. Though The Starless Sea did lag in certain parts, I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Morgenstern’s next book (probably in another 9 years).

Recommended for: fans of beautiful prose and stories within stories

Not recommended for: people looking for a straightforward book, fans of action packed and grim fiction

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About the Author

I am the author of The Night Circus (2011) and The Starless Sea (2019) and someday hopefully I will write other books so I have more things to list in biographies.

I grew up in Massachusetts and studied theatre and studio art at Smith College. I currently live with my husband Adam and the world’s cutest kitten in the middle of the woods in the Berkshires where I am writing and playing video games and trying to improve my cocktail mixing skills.

I am a Cancer with a Leo moon and Taurus rising and yes I know what all of that means. I collect bloodmilk jewelry. I knit things as long as they don’t involve too much math. I paint. I get obsessed with artisan perfume oils and I drink a lot of tea.

You can find her at

One thought on “The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

  1. Little, Big by John Crowley gave me the same feeling as Midnight Circus.
    I‘ve read so many reluctant or negative reviews about Starless Sea that I refrained from reading it. Yours isn’t negative but not exactly encouraging, another voice in the crowd.


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