I’ve been idly flipping through Goodreads reviews for THE STARLESS SEA because I loved it so much and I was curious about how others felt. Loved it or hated it, there is no in between!
If you’re not familiar with the title, THE STARLESS SEA is the new release by Erin Morgenstern, author of THE NIGHT CIRCUS. If you’ve read that one, you know that her writing is incomparably lyrical, her descriptions whimsical and overflowing like a fountain, her pacing… of her own choice.
Naturally writing like that has its detractors (many) but THE NIGHT CIRCUS got a pass from so many because it’s also an absolutely gorgeous, haunting love story, and the desire to see the guy get the girl propels many a page-turn when someone might have tossed the book aside otherwise. How else to explain some of the exceedingly bad romance novels out there (mine might be included, depending on how you feel about them)?
THE STARLESS SEA has a love story, but it’s not the only story… and it doesn’t show up until deep within the book. This is a story about stories, and it is all the more charming and delicious for readers who find the references and love notes to the stories which have come before, both within and without its pages. This is a librarian romance.
And it’s an absolutely polarizing read, apparently!
Here are some of my favorite lines from GoodReads:
-THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR!
The writing is so abstract that I couldn’t take it anymore!
-This is a masterpiece. This is flawless. This is the kind of book that comes along once in a decade. This cracks the foundations.
-dnf around 30%
Ugh what a chore
-It’s difficult to sum up a novel that has made a home in your heart and mind and will reside there for a lifetime.
And then this is the one which actually sums up the way I’m feeling right now:
“It’s a profoundly strange thing—to feel as though you are wading through mildly entertaining novels that pass through you like falling smoke, always searching for the one that reaches into the back alleys of your soul and settles to the bottom of you like fallen leaves.
And then there it is, like a faint spark bobbing on a dark sea, calling you, beckoning.”
(Here is the full review at GoodReads.)
I’ve been reading tons of good work all year, really good work, but I’ve also been reading what feels like a lot of fluff compared to the sheer magnitude of imagination and world-building and realized dreams that is THE STARLESS SEA. Finding this book, for me, was like finally reaching Cair Paravel. It felt like reaching a golden city on a hill after decades of reading works leading up to this point. It felt like this what stories were reaching for, striving for, during all of these years of modern fantasy. An ode to what makes imagination great.
And a lot of people hated it!
Which tells you absolutely everything you need to know about books, writing, novels, reviews, and art in general.
Books are subjective. Books are like people. You love some of them, you don’t get some of them but you’d sure like to figure them out, you absolutely hate some of them, you turn away from some of them and never think about them again. Every single emotion you can have about a human relationship, you can have about a book.
Not every book you read will be a soulmate, some will be good chums and some will be enemies, but for someone else… that book will be a soulmate.
So hey… go love what you love, and shout about it! Worry a little less about the relationships that don’t work out. We all want to know what made you happy, not what made you crazy.
And if THE STARLESS SEA changes your life in profound ways… hey, I get it. Wow, do I ever get it.