The Starless Sea – A Book Review

About seven years ago, The Night Circus was released, written by a debut novelist named Erin Morgenstern. It seemed to come out of nowhere and exploded onto bestseller lists everywhere, and with good reason. It was magical.
Ever since, I’ve periodically gone looking to see if she had released anything else, and to my chagrin the answer was always no. Then, in early October, while taking a peek at upcoming releases on Audible, Erin Morgenstern’s name popped up. The Starless Sea was clearly not a sequel to The Night Circus, and thank goodness for that, some stories should never be added to. No, this was a stand alone once more. Not read by the immensely talented Jim Dale this time, though. I was simultaneously elated and nervous. I had been eagerly awaiting more from her, but it had been so long now that I worried the anticipation might lead to disappointment. And did Jim Dale’s performance lend a magic to the first book that would now be lacking? Also… why did it take seven years to write this?
I shouldn’t have worried. The Starless Sea is just as good as The Night Circus, if not better. I can’t make up my mind on that, actually. Whatever magic she captured for the first book, she found yet again for the second. The narrators – there’s more than one this time – are just as good. And good lord, I now understand why this thing took seven years to get finished. Stories within stories. A narrative that doesn’t seem to be connected at first, but by the end all threads have been gathered together into a fantastic tapestry. It’s funny, but now that I’m trying to put together a novel myself, my appreciation of the sort of work that goes into a more complex storyline has risen by leaps and bounds. The Starless Sea, like The Night Circus, is complex storytelling at its finest, and is honestly beyond anything I could ever hope to write.
I keep saying that the magic is the same. But it also isn’t. Her two books are equally magical, but they are quite differently magical at the same time. She hasn’t just regurgitated the structure of her first book in a slightly different form. The story is vastly different, the plot elements are vastly different, the feel is vastly different. And good lord, but that is impressive.
Now, if you like a simpler storyline, this may not be the book for you. B does not follow A, and is not followed by C, and that isn’t for everyone. I’m not going to throw shade on anyone who feels that way, either. But if complicated, multi-layered storytelling is your cup of tea, and especially if stories about stories is your jam, check this book out.
And yes, my lack of saying anything about the plot of this is a deliberate choice. I couldn’t do it justice, and this is one of those books that it’s better for you to go in knowing as little as possible. Just check it out, in print or in audio.
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