How could I not review one of my instant all-time favourites? Read my (not so coherent) thoughts on The Starless Sea below!
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.
Everything I could ever want from a book and more. I’m definitely unable to write a coherent review for this one, I just loved it so damn much. It really has everything I love to see in books, so it feels like it was made for me. I laughed, and I cried, and I couldn’t wait to get to the ending but was also sad to see it end. It’s a truly mesmerizing book, and one that you should really go into without knowing too much about it. I would probably urge you to not even read the synopsis.
If you do want to know more though, I would probably describe this as a love letter to portal fantasies. It’s a portal fantasy at its core (and I wish I could go to live at the Harbor), and it’s also full of references to beloved other portal fantasies, such as Alice in Wonderland and Narnia. It’s a mystery novel as well, and a romance, and so so much more, because it has many different stories and storylines embedded in it, and I know it will take me multiple rereads to figure everything out, if I ever really do.
I have to say, I also loved the queer representation. There’s a bunch of references to queer literature, like Sarah Waters and Sappho, and it just felt very natural to the story.
Are you planning to read The Starless Sea? Or have you already read it?
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