A review by bhnmt61
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


If The Starless Sea had been 280 pages, it could have been a 5-star example of a dreamy, almost hallucinatory, modern fairy tale, or alternatively, the novelization of a spectacular, yet-to-be programmed video game. There is always another dark hallway leading to a ballroom or a chamber or a library, piled with books or keys or crystals, dripping with ribbons or gold dust or honey, with a door or three doors or six, leading to a dark stairwell, over and over. Whoever is the point-of-view character finds or is given a scrap of paper or a lantern or a book or a key, over and over. There are cats and owls and bees, over and over. There are so many of these scenes that there's no possible way to keep them straight, but they're beautifully written and dreamy and (at first) absorbing.

But this is not a 280-page book, it's a 500 page book, and at the moment, I'm not sure quite why I finished it. It does pick up and have an actual story toward the end, but so much time has been spent describing gorgeous, detailed rooms and stairs and underground seas that there has been very little time for characterization, so it's difficult to keep the characters straight, let alone feel any connection to them. (With the exception of Zachary Ezra Rawlings, the "main" character, who is oddly one O short of ZERo--and given the heavy layers of symbolism, it's hard to believe that is an accident).

I hope someday when Morgenstern is 60 and her brain isn't as sharp as it is today, that she will remember ruefully that she wrote this novel, many of whose characters remain unnamed for the first third of the book, with alternating story lines and no way to tell if the "the girl" in this chapter is the same as "the girl" in this other chapter until some tiny scrap of detail makes the connection, or if "the girl" is the past version of the woman in the sweater, or some entirely new girl you haven't met before. And you can't remember exactly what happened the last time a girl appeared, anyway. It's beautiful, frustrating, and way too long. But I liked Ezra.