When Zachary Ezra Rollins, the son of a fortune teller, was a boy, he found a door.  It was painted on an alley wall that was frequently covered with graffiti and then whitewashed over, but not on that day.  On that day, there was a door.  A intricately painted door with a bee, and a key, and a sword, and a golden, shimmering doorknob.  A door that he knows, deep down, leads to somewhere, someplace, maybe somewhen else.  A door that he chose not to open.  The next day it was gone, and he has always wondered what would have happened if he had not walked away from it, leaving it unopened.

Now Zachary Ezra Rollins, still the son of a fortune teller, is no longer a boy.  A game theory graduate student in the lull between semesters, he discovers a book on a shelf in his university library.  A book of unknown age and murky origins, that does not seem to quite belong to the library that houses it, that tells the story of a pirate and a girl, a labyrinthine underground library and its acolytes and guardians located on the shores of something called the Starless Sea, and doors that lead to it, some found, some lost.  It also contains, three stories in, the tale of his own painted door.  The door he did not open.  And in the back of the book there is an image of a bee, a key, and a sword.

Puzzled, Zachary Ezra Rawlins checks the book out (not without difficulty), and takes it back to his dorm.  He reads it all, and then reads it again.  And again.  And wonders if he is entirely sane.  He begins a search for the book’s origins, finding that it was donated to the university with a few other books from a mysterious Keating collection.  As he hunts for more clues, he stumbles onto a photo of a woman and her dance partner from a literary charity’s masquerade ball in New York – a woman wearing a necklace with a bee, a key, and a sword.  Discovering that this year’s ball is being held that weekend, Zachary borrows a mask from his friend Kat, packs a suit, books a hotel room, and boards a train into a future that, if fate and luck are on his side, will hold a second chance – and a second door.

Fate, time, love, stories, storytellers, art, and magic all collide in this lush, gorgeous novel that is so much more than a book.  A love letter to books, libraries, paper, the written word, and all those who keep stories alive, The Starless Sea is a stunning follow-up to author Erin Morgenstern’s blockbuster first novel, The Night Circus (don’t worry, the books are completely separate from one another – no need to read one before the other!).  Best savored slowly with tea and baked goods, this is a book to wander through slowly, leaving plenty of time for delight and wonder at all the magic within its pages.  If you’ve ever investigated the back of wardrobe, closet, or a cluster of close-set pine trees for your own door, yearned to step into the pages of a story, or felt like book characters are your kindred spirits, this book is absolutely not to be missed.  Grab it from the library and get ready to lose yourself in literary loveliness.