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The Starless Sea

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

By Erin Morgenstern

A Complicated and Creative Tapestry of a Story with Beautiful Descriptions



Zachary Ezra Rawlins, a graduate student in Vermont finds a mysterious book of fairy tales in the university’s library stacks. He is intrigued and entranced by the stories of pirates, lovelorn prisoners, and nameless acolytes. But when he reads a true story from his childhood—when he had failed to open a mysterious door—he is bewildered and desperate to find how and why his own life came to be recorded in this book.

Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden deep underground. But it’s much more than a library, it’s a place where doors go across places and time, to lost cities and ultimately a starless sea.

Together with Mirabel, a pink-haired protector of the underground, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels through tunnels, elevators, stairways and doors in this magical world to find his purpose.

“I think people came here for the same reason we came here,” Dorian says, “In search of something. Even if we didn’t know what it was... something more, something to wonder at, some place to belong. We’re here to wander through other people’s stories, searching for our own.”


THE STARLESS SEA is a unique and creative fairy tale of worlds within worlds and stories within stories. Zackary’s tale is cleverly complicated and confusing, but worth the read. The descriptive writing makes it so. With each new world, the book reads like a complex tapestry of varying myths woven together to form an abstract tableau full of symbols with unknown meaning.

At various points, I felt as if I might be reading a take-off on Alice in Wonderland, or perhaps Narnia, or maybe I somehow had been dropped in the middle of a video game, where Zachary Ezra Rawlins simply had to find the Starless Sea to get out of the underworld. But no that’s not right either, it a love story of sorts.

This book is not for everyone, not only do have to be willing to enter a world of fantasy but also be willing to be confused and trust that the author will eventually take you to a place of clarity and understanding. You may not even get there, but it will be a descriptively beautiful read.

Author Erin Morgenstern is also the author of The Night Circus, a national #1 bestseller that has been sold around the world. She has a degree in Theater and lives in Massachusetts. The Starless Sea has received numerous awards including the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy (2019), Dragon Award for Best Fantasy (2020), Locus Award for Best Fantasy (2020)

The audiobook was expertly narrated by a multiple cast of narrators, who made the story come alive. The Starless Sea comes in long at over 18 hours, but worth every minute. Word of warning—listening requires your undivided attention.

“Poetry,” Mirabel repeats. “The weather. It’s like a poem. Where each word is more than one thing at once and everything’s a metaphor. The meaning condensed into rhythm and sound and the spaces between sentences. It’s all intense and sharp, like the cold and the wind.”

“That some enjoyed them and others did not but that is the nature of a story. Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.”

“For a while I was looking for a person but I didn’t find them and after that I was looking for myself. Now that I’ve found me I’m back to exploring, which is what I was doing in the first place before I was doing anything else and I think I was supposed to be exploring all along.”

Publisher Doubleday Books

Published November 5, 2019

Narrated Dion Graham, Dominic Hoffman, Baha’i Turpin, Fiona Hardingham, Allan Corduner and Jorjeana Marie.

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