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Eyes Like Stars: The Théâtre Illuminata, Act I

Review

Eyes Like Stars: The Théâtre Illuminata, Act I

All the world’s a stage…and for Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, the brazen heroine of Lisa Mantchev’s debut novel, that means literally. The concept of characters coming to life and embodying a world outside the realm of their scripted parts is what gives EYES LIKE STARS, the first in a trilogy, its magic and originality. While there are times when those very-much-alive characters (and their overly dramatic sniggering) drive the plot to an excessively feverish (and confusing) pitch, the mayhem and turmoil that ensue are all part of the book’s character --- and its charm.

For Beatrice, a.k.a. Bertie, life at the Théâtre Illuminata --- a place where every character from every play ever written is bound together by an enchanted tome of scripts called The Complete Works of the Stage (a.k.a. The Book) --- consists of watching actors rehearse, meandering through closets full of period costumes and props, munching on picked-over treats from the Green Room, and suffering through the Stage Manager’s insufferable lectures. It’s also dependent on her staying out of trouble --- or trying to. When she’s not in her bedroom beneath the stage, Bertie is busy coming up with ways to figure out her past --- how she ended up at the Théâtre, who her parents really are and why they abandoned her, and why all sorts of characters from Lady Macbeth to Ophelia seem to be literally stuck inside the theater…permanently.

In her myriad attempts to both entertain herself and get to the bottom of things, Bertie incites many a problem in the theater’s ranks. She prompts unauthorized magical “scene changes” (consequently setting fire to one of the curtains and blowing holes in the set with a misfiring cannon), attracts the attention of a certain leading man named Ariel against her own better judgment, and causes the Theater Manger to issue her an ultimatum: do something worthwhile for the collective good of the theater or be forced out into the real world…alone.

When Bertie comes up with a plan to stage a sold-out performance of Hamlet (set in Ancient Egypt) in order to prove her worth, she’s sure she’ll be back on the Theater Manager’s good side in no time. But after Ariel steals the book and attempts to “free” the actors by ripping out all the characters’ entrance pages in The Book, Bertie’s future --- and the theater’s --- becomes uncertain.

If readers can wade through all the chaos and commotion, there’s much to be had in EYES LIKE STARS. References from Shakespearean plays abound, and bookish types and thespians will have fun picking out the characters --- and their famous lines --- from Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and others. While the book isn’t a straight fantasy, or a scripted play, there are playful elements of both and many will enjoy the blurred line between the two styles --- and the intertwined relationship that is forged from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on October 18, 2011

Eyes Like Stars: The Théâtre Illuminata, Act I
by Lisa Mantchev

  • Publication Date: July 7, 2009
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • ISBN-10: 0312380968
  • ISBN-13: 9780312380960