An Alice in Wonderland Adventure Gone Wrong: First Impressions of The Starless Sea

Knowing that I am a fan of Erin Morgenstern, my friend bought me her newest book, The Starless Sea.

This book is either a hit or a miss. You’ll either fawn over Morgenstern’s poetic prose or gradually lose your mind in an achingly beautiful way.

Synopsis

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student who discovers a mysterious book in his campus library. As he reads about pirates, acolytes, and lovelorn prisoners, he comes across his childhood story.

Zachary starts to uncover a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that eventually leads him to a masquerade ball in New York, a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library.

He meets Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances to ultimately discover his purpose in the book and in his life.

First Impressions

The greatest strength of this book is the writing. Erin Morgenstern really has a way with words, and this book puts the prose front and center.

The Starless Sea doesn’t start with Zachary, but a story that he reads about when he discovers the book in his campus library. As the book progresses, we get snippets of different tales. Technically, you’re reading a book inside a book. That was pretty cool.

The beginning is great with decent build-up. We learn about Zachary and his seemingly dull graduate life until he finds this book. But… then it starts to go downhill.

While the different tales are interesting at first, they begin to distract from the actual story itself. I haven’t finished the book, so I can’t vouch whether all of the tales lead up to a meaningful revelation or not. I hope so.

Currently, it seems that all we’re getting are spontaneous, short chapters on tales that have no connection to Zachary or a point. But this book is extremely important since it has Zachary’s past written in it. But besides that, not entirely sure what else is there to fuss about.

I’m almost half-way in the book, and I’m still not entirely sure how his adventure will help him discover why his story is written in this mysterious book. Zachary finds himself at a masquerade ball due to his curiosity about these clues. He gets involved with Dorian and starts the next leg of his journey because of him. Right now, the plot feels fragmented with no clues or hints how it all ties together.

As much as I love Morgenstern’s writing, The Starless Sea takes it to a whole other level. By this, I mean that there are excessive descriptions that boggle down the story. I had to put the book down multiple times because I couldn’t get through these flowery descriptions that don’t move the plot forward. Some will argue that it is actually no plot.

Am I going to finish this book? Maybe. Will it be anytime soon? No. What was supposed to be an Alice in Wonderland adventure had me running the other way.

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