Thumbs up for The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Fantasy.
Many years past I trudged my way through the first 50 pages of The Night Circus before DNF’ing it because I Just Did Not Care About These Characters. The Starless Sea is much better—in fact, I’d say it’s edging on great. You know that genre of just slightly experimental nonlinear novels, which tell several intertwining, overlapping stories, all of which you have to hold in your head at the same time? Calvino, maybe? Okay, now, that, but by a good-hearted Millennial woman. There is a magical library and a literal sea of honey and spelunking (sort of) and a secret society and portals and baked goods and several fated loves and people who are possibly immortal and so so much symbology and in the middle of it all is Zachary, ordinary college student studying video game narratives, son of a fortune teller. I am not sure why he’s the chosen one—maybe it’s just that someone had to be—but he’s not sure why either, and it’s very endearing. The thing that makes it all work is the shimmery liquid pleasure of Morgenstern’s prose (which manages, somehow, without a single semicolon, though I would like to give it some). I didn’t end up understanding how it all fit together in the end, but the things that happened felt satisfying, so I’ve kept this on my shelf for a later re-read.
“May I be of assistance, sir?” the man repeats, but Zachary can’t stop laughing. He opens his mouth to say something, anything, but nothing will come. His knees forget how to work and he slumps to the floor in a pile of wool coat and gold paint, finding himself at eye level with a ginger cat who peers around the edges of the man’s robes and stares at him with amber eyes and this somehow makes the whole situation even crazier and he has never laughed himself into a panic attack before, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.
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