Star rating: 4/5 stars
I loved this book!
Okay, okay, I’ll get to the stuff you probably came here to read.
Synopsis: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student studying video games who cheats on his games by reading on the side. He discovers a mysterious book in his campus library and is transported to a place where many stories are true- and others are true enough. He’s been brought to the world of the Starless Sea.
General Information: It was published in 2019 by Anchor Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House.
Favorite quote: “A reading major, that’s what he wants. No response papers, no exams, no analysis, just the reading.” (Relatable, right? I think we’ve all been there. Or I can assume so, considering that you’re reading a book blog in your free time.)
Okay, again, I loved this book! First, the things I loved: I love how mysterious everything is until it’s tied up very neatly near the end. There were a couple of moments that made me go “Oh!” in a good way. I love the characters, especially a couple of the side characters (namely, Kat. She really stuck out to me). I love that it’s a meditation on the power of stories- something that will be relatable to most readers.
The prose is beautiful too, Morgenstern’s descriptions are excellent. I could really visualize the scenes. I also love that in the Acknowledgements, she mentions NaNoWriMo and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Can we be best friends already? (Yes, I read the Acknowledgements. Do you not?)
Overall, this book was a huge inspiration for me and was part of the reason I re-discovered writing.
So why did I give it 4 stars instead of 5?
Well, there were a few things that I didn’t love. Remember how I mentioned that it was very mysterious, until near the ending? This book almost lost me exactly because of the mystery. I had originally checked it out from the library before a vacation this summer, let it lapse without finishing it, then decided to buy a copy earlier this month and finally finish it.
So, it lost me for a solid couple of months. I kept thinking about it, which shows how powerful the story is, but there’s a lot of unanswered questions until near the ending, which I realize is a turn-off for a lot of people.
I also didn’t quite connect with the character of Zachary. Sure, he’s a video game nerd which is a huge plus in my book (dare I say it, I love mentions of video games in fiction). The only problem was that he felt very passive- things sort of happened to him, instead of him acting to change his circumstances. This is partly for reasons that are explained at the end, but again, I realize this can be a turn-off for many readers.
I enjoyed the romantic subplot, but it felt a little forced to me. I didn’t quite feel the chemistry between Zachary and (spoiler alert! 1… 2… 3… okay, continuing) Dorian. I appreciate the LGBTQIA+ inclusion in this book but the romance didn’t quite work for me.
My biggest problem with it, and highest compliment, was that I wanted there to be more! I flipped pages after the ending, expecting there to be more left to read. I would have gladly read until Morgenstern ran out of words.
This was such a powerful story! It was a love letter to anyone who enjoys reading. I might have to go read The Night Circus now to get another fix of her writing. This story was a huge inspiration to me and I hope it can serve the same purpose for more people in the future.