10 Books Like The Starless Sea You’ll Love

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Have you ever finished a book and just… stopped and sighed in contentment?  A dreamy far off look in your eye as you try desperately to stay in that world for just a little longer? For me, that book was The Starless Sea.

If you are here, there’s a good chance that you loved it too. Now, I’m going to start off this post with a disclaimer. There is truly NO book I’ve come across that is A LOT like The Starless Sea. But there are some books I’ve found that give me the same vibe. 

Why I Loved The Starless Sea

I read The Starless Sea as my first book of 2020, and I had no regrets. If I had to describe that novel to someone, I would describe it like living through a waking dream. My reality already felt a little frayed because we were in that weird space around the holidays when you had a lot of time off and were about to get back into the grind at work. 

My sense of time was distorted and I was primed for something dreamy. Sometimes I get very in my own head around this time of year and this book came along and whisked me away.

The Writing

One of the things I liked most about this book, was the juxtaposition of this incredibly magical, almost alternate reality mixed with this very mundane existence of our main characters.

If you stepped back and took the plot on its own, it’s not that special. College kid wanders through magical reality, loves books. 

What really elevates this book so high in my esteem is the writing and the pacing in conjunction with the magical plot. The story unfurls before you, slowly and methodically you move forward. Every step you take forward in the story you are met with beautiful lyrical writing.

To me, it almost felt like one continuous song that you didn’t even realize had been playing until you closed the book and sat in the silence left behind.

The Confusion (but in a good way)

Another one of my favorite features of The Starless Sea, was again, this sense of not knowing what was real and what was a story. Of being a little unsure of what was going on around me.

It felt a little bit like descending into madness but in a very poetic kind of way. 

As the story progresses, things become less and less cut and dried. You are asked to believe unbelievable things, and you are never really sure where the conclusion lies.

When I put down the book I wasn’t really sure what had happened. Which I loved because it kept me puzzling over the book and turning it around in my mind, long after it was over.

What do I mean by "Books Like The Starless Sea"

So, back to my disclaimer. There truly aren’t really any books exactly like The Starless Sea. However, I have found a few that seriously vibed with it.  

  • the pacing
  • the outstanding writing
  • the dreaminess 
  • the unfurling
  • the quirk
  • the love of stories
  • the longing
  • the dueling realities
  • the magical aspects
  • the charm
I’ve curated a list of my favorite books like The Starless Sea below, along with why they gave me those vibes.

Books (kind of) Like The Starless Sea

Susanna Clarke

Listen, this is the closest I’ve come to the full Starless Sea experience. This is a quick read, less than 250 pages, but every page is magical. I’ve recommended that everyone go into this book completely blind, so I don’t want to give it away here.  

I will say the same things I loved about Starless Sea applies here. Not knowing exactly what world or time I was reading about, a story that starts to become clear before you as you read each chapter, this sense of a frayed reality, characters you love and root for. I enjoyed the crap out of this book and highly recommend it to people who love stories.

V.E Schwab

In a list of books like The Starless Sea, I’d be remiss to not include the breakout star of 2020 – The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue. Alice read this book and immediately demanded that we read it as well; it was one of her favorite books of 2020. 

Addie makes a bargain to live forever, and as these things are wont to be, it turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing. For three hundred years no one remembers Addie until she stumbles across a man in a bookstore who remembers her name. 

This book gave me Starless Sea vibes from its sense of place and time. Along with the themes of who will remember you, who gets to tell your story, and what does it mean to belong?

There are also a lot of the same whimsical elements and that sense of reading a story that is pure magic. I loved the themes explored in this book. V.E. Schwab is incredible.

Further Reading: 20 Five Star Books of 2020

Naomi Novik

Very loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin. Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. 

Her reputation for being able to turn silver into gold soon catches the eye of the king of the Staryk. 

This story was almost perfect from start to finish. We have three strong female leads, who all play their own roles in this story. We have a plot that unfurls before you, beautifully and methodically. We have a chillingly gorgeous winter setting that creates an extremely atmospheric novel. 

I can only DREAM to write a fantasy novel that has such beautiful language and writing but is also incredibly accessible and easy to read. Honestly, it’s a masterpiece from start to finish. The writing style and pacing are what put it on this list of books like The Starless Sea. 

If you are looking for fast-paced and dramatic, this book probably is not for you. But if you want high stakes, beauty, adventure, and women controlling their own destiny… this is the one.

Laura E. Weymouth

Six years ago, sisters, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. Upon their return to their time and place the two sisters both struggle to move on in their own way. 

This book is almost an antithesis to The Starless Sea. The main characters already went on their adventures in a magical world. They experienced the wonder already. This story follows the aftermath of coming back to reality after such an experience. 

So why include it here? Well first of all this book will rip your heart out, if you’ve ever struggled with a sense of belonging. This book straddles reality and fantasy, in a beautifully written, well-paced novel. 

As with a lot of books on this list, it grapples with the concept of what it means to live between worlds. After this book, I looked up with wet lashes, a faraway look in my eyes, and a lot of thoughts in my head.

Other Books Like The Starless Sea

Okay, these next few I can not recommend from personal experience. A few some trusted friends have read and a few I’ve heard through the grapevine are good for fans of The Starless Sea. 

I’ll list them below with their synopsis and a little bit about what has put them on my list to read next in my quest for those same vibes.

I am particularly excited to get into Gingerbread and This is How You Lose The Time War; both sitting on my TBR shelf. Then next up will be Ten Thousand Doors of January & Strange The Dreamer 🙂

Alix E Harrow

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

“A gorgeous, aching love letter to stories, storytellers, and the doors they lead us through…absolutely enchanting.”–Christina Henry, bestselling author of Alice

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

If that doesn’t scream dreamy lover of stories just like The Starless Sea, then I don’t know what does. Alice read this one and loved it. So I can’t wait to get my hands on it and dive right in. Plus… THAT COVER!

Laini Taylor

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was just five years old, he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the form of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

In this sweeping and breathtaking novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.
The answers await in Weep.

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

Our friends over at @heartsfullofreads on Instagram suggested this book. We have VERY similar taste in books and I trust them 100%. Their feedback was that this book has beautiful writing and is whimsical. Giving strong Starless Sea vibes. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Also! Check @heartsfullofreads out on Instagram. 

Helen Oyeyemi

Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories–equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch’s house in “Hansel and Gretel” to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can–beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make.

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

I can’t wait to get into this book. From what I can tell it has that same feeling of a book between two worlds. I think it will be a curiosity to read, whimsical and a little strange and I am very ready to experience it. Here’s hoping it stands up!

Further Reading: 12 Wintery Reads

Matt Haig

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

Well, pretty obviously a magical library with untold lives on the pages? The themes seem pretty similar. This book has 4.23 stars on goodreads with over 100K reviews which is impressive.

Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandment finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right?

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

The reviews of this book have said that it unfolds layer after layer and I have a feeling this is our Sci-Fi book that vibes with The Starless Sea with the overall feel of the book. I already own this one and I’m planning on reading it this month!

Deborah Harkness

In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. 

Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld. Harkness adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense.

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

Alright, I think this is the biggest stretch here. I’ve seen other people recommend this one, but I’m dubious. It might be more for the Library aspect. I’m not sure if the story, the writing, the pacing, etc.. will vibe with The Starless Sea like I’m looking for. Really my main goal is capture that FEELING The Starless Sea gave me. Where I close the book and woosh out some air and just reflect on what I just read. 

However, I’ve owned this book for a few years now and what better excuse to get it off the shelf and read it! I’ll report back. 

BONUS!

Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas, tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. 

Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Why This Book Vibes Like The Starless Sea

I couldn’t very well leave off the novel that enchanted us all to begin with? Could I? Erin Morgenstern writes a near perfect novel in The Night Circus. I would highly recommend you start here if you really are searching for books like The Starless Sea.

Did I Get It Right?

There it is. This list was a struggle and a pleasure to write all at once. I will be reading every book on this list myself. I hope you join me in reading the ones that caught your fancy.

What do you recommend to your friends when they ask for books like The Starless Sea? Did I get it right, or am I missing something really obvious?

Xoxo,

Anne

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