- Author: Erin Morgenstern
- Series: Standalone
- Genre: Portal Fantasy
- No. of pages: 498
- Dates read: 08.12.20 – 16.12.20
- Star Rating: 5
Plot: When Zachary Ezra Rawlins 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.
So, I received this book as a gift from my brother last Christmas and have only just got around to reading it a year later! I have been interested in Morgenstern’s work for some time having her debut book, The Night Circus, on my to read list for many years. So I was quite nervous entering this book as I wanted to love it because my brother bought it for me, I wanted to like it so having the other book on my list wasn’t a waste of time and I wanted to like it as it sounded really interesting! Thankfully, I loved it!
So the first thing that stood out to me was the writing. It was so beautiful! I had heard that she had a really flowery, overly descriptive writing style but I didn’t think that at all when I read it. I thought it had a great balance of description without it being over the top, plus the beautiful scenes she had imagined needed the fancy description anyway to do them justice. I just really enjoyed the whimsical nature of writing and I felt that I was being swept up into my own fantasy world alongside these characters.
The book started off initially slow to me, I think this was down to my hesitance with the novel, but when I started understanding the plot more and starting to theorise and try to figure things out for myself, the pacing ended up being really quick for me. At one point I read 150 pages in one sitting, I was that invested!
The plot to me was masterful. I think the biggest success to me with the plot was the structuring. Half the book is set in the present day following our main characters around as they try to solve the big mystery of the novel while the other half includes really detailed short stories that really set the tone and atmosphere for the book. 1. The short stories help with the pacing being so short and very frequent between chapters, 2. They are enterating within themselves and 3. I cannot say lest I spoil the book.
This plot is so rich and so detailed that I was writing down theory after theory and trying connect all the dots. I could of happily spent hours trying to connect everything together with what I was given on the page. You do not know, with each turn of the page, what you’re going to get. It’s just such an exciting book that your try to absorb to fully understand. I do believe this is a book that requires a second read as I believe you will miss things the first-time round it is that detailed.
I really enjoyed the characters. Mainly the protagonist Zachary, I really enjoyed following him around and learning alongside him. I enjoyed his intelligence, his inquisitiveness and his kindness. I also enjoyed Dorian, his sarcasm and his bravery. The whole cast of characters were just super fun! We had some great LGBTQ+ representation in this book. I loved seeing the relationship between these characters develop and blossom, I was rooting for them wholeheartedly for the entire book. You just want them to get together so much!
The worldbuilding. So, the world building is tough. The world is so detailed and rich but also covered in so much mystery. I don’t think we truly covered the real story of the Starless Sea and how it came to be and why it is here. So while I enjoyed every piece of world-building that the books gives you I felt like I was not getting enough and I truly didn’t understand the world. But I believe the book is meant to leave you like that. Keep you in the dark slightly.
Overall, the plot was so incredibly good, the world so interesting and the characters really engaging. I highly recommend this book if you are into fantasy books with intricate plots that go very deep and require you to think a bit!
The next book I will be reviewing is The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson! The final book in the Mistborn Trilogy. I don’t know if I’m ready for it to end! What I have read so far is so exciting and many revelations have been made that change how you view the series as a whole so…. good things!