The Starless Sea. Finished 5-20-20, magical fiction, 4.5/5 stars, 498 pages, pub. 2019
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. from Goodreads
It’s hard to know where to start with this book because it was…dreamlike? timeless? mindbending? a rabbit hole I’d love to fall into even if only for a moment? It’s all of those, of course, but it’s also a story about stories and if you’re willing to lose yourself in those beautiful fairy tales for a bit you are in for an enchanted ride. Where does one story end and another begin?
Ezra is a gamer and a graduate student who finds a forgotten book on the library shelves. He picks it up, curious, but becomes disturbed when he discovers one of the stories is about him. One clue leads to another until he finds himself at a swanky NYC literary party where he meets Max (Where the Wild Things Are) and later Dorian, a master storyteller. Then the fun begins. There are doors, old and new, edible stories, seas made of honey, an underground warren of tunnels and rooms that can confuse time and space, and the place seems to have been forgotten. But there are still stories to discover and be written, quests to pursue, dangers to be averted, and mysteries to solve.
We read this for my book club and my first words were, “I loved it even if I didn’t completely understand it.” This was mostly true. I felt like I understood the book, even if my brain didn’t always keep up. I’d read the reviews of some who didn’t care for it and I get it. It took me a little while to sink into it, but once I did I was hooked and really didn’t want it to end. And it was 500 pages! If you’re going to give it a try, give it some time and just enjoy the ride.