Perfect Insanity in The Starless Sea | Book Review

【The Starless Sea】

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published: November 2019
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Pages: 498 [paperback]

First thoughts

*picks jaw back up off the floor* woowwww! This book is perfect insanity, and I loved it so much. From the very first chapter this whisks you away into a different realm of existence where anything goes and cats are everything. The madness of this book is only comparable to that of Alice in Wonderland (a reference heavily alluded to throughout). This book perfectly captures the essence of storytelling and how it feels to dream.

What’s it about?

It follows the story of Zachary, first and foremost. He’s completing his Masters at university in gaming, looking at choosing your own story and gender (or something like that). He’s the leading lad of this story (and he’s gay so ready thine senses for a sizzling male-male relationship that’ll leave you hankering for more). It’s all very fitting and foreshadow-y, if you pay attention.

The book rotates between telling the story of Zachary as he slowly gets sucked into this magical world, and between the chapters of this book called Sweet Sorrows. This other world is a world of stories and Zachary slowly realises that many of the stories he reads in this book (which he finds unlabelled in a library) are there in the magical world surrounding the Starless Sea.

There is so much mystery and intrigue involved as both we, as readers, and Zachary try to work out what the heck is going on, how *he* has ended up in Sweet Sorrows as a story and what the point of it all is.

Why I loved it

You’ve really just got to go into this and trust that it’ll all make sense at the end. I won’t discuss much because it’s better not knowing anything. Just know that Zachary and the book are going to transport you to somewhere amazing and make you feel like you’re falling down the rabbit hole yourself.

There is something spell-bindingly poetic about this whole story and Morgenstern has done an INCREDIBLE job of trusting the reader to piece all the clues she leaves in her writing together. If you pay enough attention, you might just have some idea of where the conclusion is heading before you reach that final page.

Favourite character? Dorien for sure. There’s something so alluring about his character the whole way through. Though the Keeper certainly comes in as a close second. Also, did anyone else picture Allegra as Cruella de Vil? Just me? Mirabel was perfectly whimsical and all the cats were fantastic.

Favourite story? The innkeeper and the moon. For sure. It’s a pretty central one so I’m guessing a lot of people also loved this, but that story really stuck with me and made me fall in love with the overall book.


If a tantalising puzzle could be a book, this would be it. I’m really excited to see what other madness Morgenstern is capable of writing because I can’t believe how brilliant this was. I feel like I just read something by the Queen of Storytelling: I couldn’t even imagine writing something like this myself in a million years. It’s mad, it’s brilliant, it’s fun, it’s romantic, it’s sad and it’s everything you could ever want from a story.

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3 thoughts on “Perfect Insanity in The Starless Sea | Book Review

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