My Unpopular Opinion about The Starless Sea

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I read The Night Circus but I remembered loving it, so of course when The Starless Sea came out, it was immediately on my TBR. Lots of people loved it and I thought I would too…. but I didn’t.

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.

I liked Zachary. He was a grad student who studied video games, and he was shy and enjoyed reading books. One day he found a book that was about him and he had to find out more. I loved that Zachary was a thoughtful and gentle-hearted male MC who captured my heart right away.

This book has ALL the aesthetics. The setting descriptions were beautiful and imaginative and it really did feel like jumping into a whole different world.

People say that this is a love story for stories, and I definitely could sense that here. As an avid reader and writer, I could relate!

I really enjoyed some of the myths and mini-stories that are interwoven with the main story. They were like fairy tales and they were beautiful stories.

I didn’t really get this book. There were multiple story threads that I think were supposed to connect together and make up the bigger story… and at first I was confused but I thought, “okay it’ll all make sense, it’ll all make sense”, but it never did make sense to me. By the end of the book I was as confused as ever.

As beautiful as the imagery was, I felt burnt out reading one lavish setting description after another. It all just looked the same to me after a while. Towards the end of the book I even started skipping paragraphs and paragraphs just to get to the action. (Which did not help with my confusion about the plot.)

The main character Zachary was a nice guy but he didn’t seem to do anything beside wander around and have stuff happen to him. A glass appeared in front of him and he drank it, he found a bowl of dice and rolled them, then some lady asked him to tell a story and he told a story. He also didn’t seem to have a past or character flaws or motivation, beyond getting to the end of the story.

2/5 fishies!

Not saying that The Starless Sea was a bad book, it’s just not for me.

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

4 responses to “My Unpopular Opinion about The Starless Sea”

  1. This book wasn’t for me either so I’m glad I’m not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally get what you mean Soph. The book’s prose is beautiful but can a tad over the top at times and the story is a bit confusing. I loved The Starless Sea despite all that because at it’s heart it is a book about stories for stories sake. For that reason, and for Zachary because man he is just so soft and likable!, I really enjoyed the book. It isn’t for everyone by any means though. I will tell you though after reading it I was inclined to buy Where the Wild Things Are for all the references The Starless Sea makes to it, and now I can’t believe I hadn’t owned WTWTA all my life. I read it every time I need a bit of a boost lol 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve yet to read The Starless Sea, but I can definitely see myself struggling with the overly descriptive imagery, especially if I’m not in the right mood to read it either. I know from my experience with The Night Circus that Morgenstern can create a wholly captivating and immersive story, but I think there’s always a delicate balance between that flowery prose and narrative development. Brilliant review.

    Liked by 1 person

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