I loved the Night Circus. This is not a sequel, but it is a worthy successor.
There is a relationship build you up with books such as this….long, obsessively descriptive, full of flights of fancy and challenging metaphor. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve read Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose or Elizabeth Gilbert’s Signature of all Things. The closest thing might be Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland. And it is hard to let it go when the book ends.
The Starless Sea is self-referential–stories within stories within stories until you are lost (and don’t mind at all) within the tales along with the main couples: The Keeper and the Girl, Eleanor and Simon, and Zachary & Dorian, the moon and the sun.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a book. Only the book starts out with a story about the son of a fortune teller who finds a door painted on a wall one day…and doesn’t go through. He becomes obsessed with the eerie book, and thus enters the world of The Starless Sea (this is one path).
And its also about a guardian and an acolyte and the Keeper and the Girl who tell each other tales an find each other in the underground Starless Sea and are lost to each other again, and anything I say to try and summarize this book is pointless. This is a book you enjoy the prose journey, you do not race through, you do no yearn after plot because its more about what we hold dear (“Sometimes important things hurt”) and about the stories we tell ourselves.
It is a beautiful book. It is labyrinthine. You will lose patience.
Then you will get to the final fourth of the book and Simon meets Zachary just after Zach meets the Celestial Bunny and they say:
“Who are the stars?” It is a question Zachary has thought before but not yet asked aloud, though he remains confused as to whether the Owl King is a person or a bird or a type of weather.
“We are the stars,” he answers, as though it is the most obvious of facts afloat in the sea of metaphors and misdirections. “We are all star-dust and stories.”
We are all stardust and stories. Yes, that is a good place to end this review. Don’t read this if you are an action junkie. Definitely read this if you need a safe place to sit and dream and remember for a while. It’s gorgeous.