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 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.
First things first, look how beautiful that cover is. I don’t own a lot of hardcover books (this was a gift from a wonderful friend), but if they all looked like this then I might give up my eBook habit.
I recently listened to The Night Circus (review here), and really enjoyed Erin Morgenstern’s writing, so I was excited to get started with this. It exceeded my already pretty high expectations.
The main character of Zachary Ezra Rawlins was so complex, and so interesting, and so easy to root for. The way the book unfolds, you are following the story just as Zachary does – I found myself wondering what would happen next just as he pondered the same. As he questioned the motives of the other characters, I was thinking about that too. There’s references to popular culture in the book, which usually tend to jar me out of the narrative (they can look so dated in a few years), but they were well chosen here, and I think they will last the test of time.
It’s so beautifully written – it’s a love story about stories, and about love. It’s a pretty hefty book, but I couldn’t put it down. Even when I went to bed, I was still thinking about it, and when I woke up, I was counting down the minutes and hours until I could pick it up again (sadly, nobody pays me to read books, so I have to keep up with the day job to pay the bills!).
It was a different experience, as I read the physical copy of the book, compared to listening to the audiobook of The Night Circus. I would like to listen to the audiobook of this at some point too, just to see how the narrator treats it, which bits are emphasised and which bits aren’t. I will definitely re-read this at some point, but before that I’ll make a few other people read it as well, so I can gush about how great it is with them. This was an easy 5 star rating to give, I would have given it more if I could. It’s going on my “favourite ever books” list, that’s how much I loved it.