The Starless Sea

Doubleday. Nov. 2019. 512p. ISBN 9780385541213. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385541220. F.
In this follow-up to Morgenstern’s magical debut, The Night Circus, grad student Zachary Ezra Rawlins discovers a mysterious book in his university library stacks containing loyal acolytes, key seekers, and lovers trapped in time, not to mention the story of a childhood incident wherein he finds a door painted on a wall but doesn’t risk going through. Smartly following enigmatic clues, he is led to a masquerade party, a woman dressed as Max from Where the Wild Things Are, and a storytelling man who rescues him from murderous pursuers and with whom he falls in love. And that leads him to a doorway opening on an ancient underground sanctuary, bordering on a starless sea, where he follows numerous threads to find out what his story really is as he fights to protect the stories already there, the stories interwoven with his own. What results is a magnificent quest, a sense of unfolding adventure and danger, gold-wrought fantasy, and endless provocation on what storytelling really means.
VERDICT In the end, Morgenstern proves wrong one of her villains, who proclaims that a story is like an egg; break it, and it’s lost. Her stories flow together as they flow forward and will enthrall a wide range of readers. Highly recommended. [Prepub Alert, 4/22/19.]
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