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The Starless Sea
Cover of The Starless Sea
The Starless Sea
A Novel
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
Read by Dominic Hoffman, with a full cast:
Dominic Hoffman reading the Zachary Ezra Rawlins storyline
Dion Graham reading the Sweet Sorrows storyline
Bahni Turpin reading excerpts from the Secret Diary of Katrina Hawkins
Fiona Hardingham reading The Ballad of Simon and Eleanor
Allan Corduner reading Fortunes and Fables
Jorjeana Marie reading Another place, another time
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
Read by Dominic Hoffman, with a full cast:
Dominic Hoffman reading the Zachary Ezra Rawlins storyline
Dion Graham reading the Sweet Sorrows storyline
Bahni Turpin reading excerpts from the Secret Diary of Katrina Hawkins
Fiona Hardingham reading The Ballad of Simon and Eleanor
Allan Corduner reading Fortunes and Fables
Jorjeana Marie reading Another place, another time
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover BOOK I

    SWEET SORROWS

    Once, very long ago . . .

    There is a pirate in the basement.

    (The pirate is a metaphor but also still a person.)

    (The basement could rightly be considered a dungeon.)

    The pirate was placed here for numerous acts of a piratey nature considered criminal enough for punishment by those non-pirates who decide such things.

    Someone said to throw away the key, but the key rests on a tarnished ring on a hook that hangs on the wall nearby.

    (Close enough to see from behind the bars. Freedom kept in sight but out of reach, left as a reminder to the prisoner. No one remembers that now on the key side of the bars. The careful psychological design forgotten, distilled into habit and convenience.)

    (The pirate realizes this but withholds comment.)

    The guard sits in a chair by the door and reads crime serials on faded paper, wishing he were an idealized, fictional version of himself. Wondering if the difference between pirates and thieves is a matter of boats and hats.

    After a time he is replaced by another guard. The pirate cannot discern the precise schedule, as the basement-dungeon has no clocks to mark the time and the sound of the waves on the shore beyond the stone walls muffles the morning chimes, the evening merriment.

    This guard is shorter and does not read. He wishes to be no one but himself, he lacks the imagination to conjure alter egos, even the imagination to empathize with the man behind the bars, the only other soul in the room beyond the mice. He pays elaborate amounts of attention to his shoes when he is not asleep. (He is usually asleep.)

    Approximately three hours after the short guard replaces the reading guard, a girl comes.

    The girl brings a plate of bread and a bowl of water and sets them outside the pirate's cell with hands shaking so badly that half the water spills. Then she turns and scampers up the stairs.

    The second night (the pirate guesses it is night) the pirate stands as close to the bars as he can and stares and the girl drops the bread nearly out of reach and spills the bowl of water almost entirely.

    The third night the pirate stays in the shadows of the back corner and manages to keep most of his water.

    The fourth night a different girl comes.

    This girl does not wake the guard. Her feet fall more softly on the stones and any sound they make is stolen away by the waves or by the mice.

    This girl stares into the shadows at the barely visible pirate, gives a little disappointed sigh, and places the bread and bowl by the bars. Then she waits.

    The pirate remains in the shadows.

    After several minutes of silence punctuated by the guard's snoring, the girl turns away and leaves.

    When the pirate retrieves his meal he finds the water has been mixed with wine.

    The next night, the fifth night if it is night at all, the pirate waits by the bars for the girl to descend on her silent feet.

    Her steps halt only briefly when she sees him.

    The pirate stares and the girl stares back.

    He holds out a hand for his bowl and his bread but the girl places them on the ground instead, her eyes never leaving his, not allowing so much as the hem of her gown to drift into his reach. Bold yet coy. She gives him a hint of a bow as she returns to her feet, a gentle nod of her head, a movement that reminds him of the beginning of the dance.

    (Even a pirate can recognize the beginning of a dance.)

    The next night the pirate stays back from the bars, a polite distance that could be closed in a single step, and the girl comes a breath closer.

    Another night...
About the Author-
  • ERIN MORGENSTERN is the author of The Night Circus, a number-one national bestseller that has been sold around the world and translated into thirty-seven languages. She has a degree in Theatre from Smith College and lives in Massachusetts.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 15, 2019
    Built from fables, myths, and fairy tales, Morgenstern’s long-awaited second fantastical novel (following The Night Circus) delves into a vast subterranean library, the Harbor on the Starless Sea, a giant, maze-like, subterranean library where all languages are comprehensible to everyone, and time moves differently. Its wonders include moving statues, edible stories, and a sea made of honey. Narrative-obsessed grad student Zachary Rawlins happens upon an old, authorless collection in the campus library. Among the tales of an improbable land of books and their devotees is an anecdote from Zachary’s own childhood, a time when he found a magical door but chose to walk away, disbelieving. Desperate to understand and longing for a second chance at adventure, Zachary investigates and finds a literary party thrown by a secret society. He goes through a painted door in Central Park and into the Harbor itself, now long past its heyday and mostly deserted. Aboveground, the secret society is trying to close as many doors as possible, hoping to keep the Starless Sea hidden. Aided by otherworldly Mirabel, whose motives and history are obscure, and alluring Dorian, a former society member who opposes the closing of the doors, Zachary works to understand how the Harbor fell into disrepair and what he can do to protect it. He also learns what it means to be not just a reader but a part of the story, and what happens after that story ends. This love letter to bibliophiles is dreamlike and uncanny, grounded in deeply felt emotion, and absolutely thrilling. Agent: Richard Pine, InkWell Management.

  • AudioFile Magazine Dion Graham's rich, velvety timbre guides listeners through the world of SWEET SORROWS, the volume of stories that opens author Erin Morgenstern's worlds within worlds. Zachary Ezra Rawlins, new media graduate student and son of a fortune-teller, finds himself at the center of events surrounding a mysterious library book that reflects his life within its pages. Dominic Hoffman's clear, assured performance leads Zachary through myriad doorways of alleged fantastical settings and perceived realities. Overlapping, interwoven tales, delivered by multiple performers, feature pirates, key collectors, story acolytes, and owl kings. Listeners and characters alike transform simultaneously into both observers and participants as Morgenstern's fantasy unfolds. The combined narrative talents of Bahni Turpin, Fiona Hardingham, Allan Corduner, and Jorjeana Marie are part of Zachary's journey through near-forgotten realms. J.R.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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The Starless Sea
A Novel
Erin Morgenstern
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