The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern
This is driving me mad – how on earth did I get this book? Did a friend loan it to me? Or recommend it? It’s not my usual impulse purchase but I enjoyed it a lot: very Hardingesque or Susanna Clarke-esque gentle fantasy. We’ve all read fantasy where there is a chosen / special one, maybe drawn in from our world to another – but in how many of those are they chosen to be the key to a world made of stories and underpinned by bees? Huh? Huh?
Still, I would like her to have reined it back a bit. The style is lovely and utterly original in my experience – we get fairy tales full of symbolism and metaphor, all original to this book and worth the purchase price alone (had I actually paid for it; see my opening remarks), interspersed with a more traditional hero-protagonist story, with the former starting to feed into the latter as the story proceeds. But in the end there was just so much going on in non-linear fashion that it became hard to retain and I was just proceeding on faith that it all tied together. For so long the hero is at the mercy of powers he can’t begin to understand that it’s impossible for him to have any kind of agency until about ¾ of the way through, which makes him likeable but not as interesting as he could be.