Review: Erin Morgenstern – The Starless Sea

For many people, The starless sea by Erin Morgenstern is their most anticipated book of 2019. I haven’t read The night circus before, so I was a little hesitant about this book I have to admit. Is Morgenstern’s writing for me? However, I saw many positive ARC reviews of The starless sea, so I decided to dive right into it.

Review: Erin Morgenstern – The Starless SeaThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Format: Audiobook, Hardcover
Pages: 512
Narrator: Dominic Hoffman, full cast
Length: 18 hours, 37 minutes
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Harvill Secker on November 5, 2019
ISBN: 9781910701454
Goodreads
three-stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world--a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, 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 far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians -- it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose--in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I pre-ordered the audiobook on Audible, mainly because it was a full cast audiobook. That part was great, or so I thought, so why not? When I started listening, I had difficulties getting used to the main narrator, Dominic Hoffman. I pushed the speed up to 2.5 at first, but I had to adjust it to 3.0. And I still couldn’t get used to his narration. So, I decided to switch over to the ebook. This read much easier for me.

The starless sea started out strong and interesting. The story parts at the beginning of each chapter left me intrigued and I wanted to know how this piece of the puzzle fits into the book. Furthermore, Zachary – I keep calling him Ezra in my mind – had an interesting storyline. However, I kept falling asleep whilst reading. I thought this was the issue with the audiobook, but I had the same problems after switching to the ebook. The starless sea is divided into six books (parts) and all stories of these parts (except for the main storyline of Zachary) were narrated by someone else and not all narrators were that likeable.

On 2/3 of the book, I lost all connections to the plot. I was getting tired of it, a litle bit slumping even. I got confused and didn’t know how all the pieces were connected anymore. The major letdown were the final 120 pages or so, because what was actually happening there? For me, The starless sea is two-faced. We have this beautiful, magical, whymsical writing style of Erin Morgenstern – which is amazing and boosted up my rating with at least one star -, but on the other hand we have a story that started out strong but lost all connections for me at the fourth book. I wanted to get this book done with and move on. Not a good sign.

In December I will do a group readalong of The night circus and I really hope I will like that book better. However, if you are a massive fan of Laini Taylor‘s writing style, you really should give books by Erin Morgenstern a try. Whenever you decide on reading The starless sea, I strongly recommend a physical book or ebook over the audiobook.

3 comments

  1. The manager of the bookstore I’m working at was just telling me how much she loved this book and asked if I read it. It never caught my interest but I did see a lot of great reviews of it. Having used both audibles and traditional books (and sometimes both for the same title), I definitely think some books translate well and some don’t. You are absolutely right. Sometimes a book actually works better for me on audible and sometimes it is completely the opposite. Silver Serpents? The narrator is AWFUL. But I love love the book. The Written? I jumped back and forth but I really loved the narrator.

  2. See I read the Night Circus and felt like it was incredibly two face in similar ways to how you described The Starless Sea. Erin Morgenstern writes this beautiful prose and makes everything sound so magical but the plot fell flat for me as well. I still have Starless Sea on my TBR, whether I’ll actually read it is another thing altogether.

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