Series: Théâtre Illuminata #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on July 7th 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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All her world’s a stage.
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
That is, until now.
Enter Stage Right
NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.
COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks.
ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.
BERTIE. Our heroine.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.
Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.
Okay you guys, I’m going to tell you something important. You can’t tell anyone. This is just between you and me.
*Exhales the words so they are super silent* I. Have. Only. Read. Two of Shakespeare’s plays. Macbeth and R&J.
WHAT whosaidthat. Certainly wasn’t me.
But in all seriousness, withhold your desire to hit me over the head with his entire collected works, okay?
Despite my lack of Shakespearian knowledge, I didn’t feel left in the dark when I read this book. I did, however, feel left in the dust, due to the breakneck pacing.
While I’ve read many books that read so slowly they’ve put me to sleep, I’ve also read books where everything speeds by, like a fast-forwarded tape. The scenes zip along and all the important bits where you’re supposed to feel something are lost in the torrent of imagery. The voices are high and they blend together, so much so that you find you can’t take their words seriously. In fact, you find the entire thing laughable.
That was this book, in a nutshell.
When the protagonist, Bertie, is confronted with problem after problem, it seems diar for all of a second before she pulls a solution out of thin air. One of the higher ups is giving her trouble? A paragraph of struggle later and she’s sweet talked her way into changing his mind. Bertie can’t find what she’s looking for? Oh wait, don’t worry, everyone’s wearing it! (Yes, this actually happened.)
For me, the ups and downs of the plot never felt fully authentic, and for this reason I was glad that every moment I found myself groaning, I was distracted by the adorable characters Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed and Peaseblossom, Bertie’s four faerie friends who follow her everywhere. I would like to say that the characters saved this book for me, but then there were Nate and Ariel.
Love triangles are fun. There’s two guys to choose from, so if both aren’t your cup of tea, you can always pick a side. This wasn’t the case for me in Eye’s Like Stars, where both of the love interests fell flat.
First you have Nate, the protective pirate who gives Bertie this medallion that she CAN’T TAKE OFF because it’s supposed to keep her safe from the other love interest, Ariel, and his wicked, wicked ways. Never mind that Nate’s pirate voice made him sound a bit like an old sea dog, what he was saying made me continuously roll my eyes. Their conversations went a bit like this:
Nate: YEH TOOK OFF THE MEDALLION WHAT
Bertie: You said it can’t touch saltwater, and I was crying, so I thought…
Nate: THE MEDALLION IS SUPPOSED TO PROTECT YEH HOW COULD YEH DO THIS YEH ARE SO CARELESS ARGH
Bertie: But protect me from what? I don’t understand.
Nate: *voice drops to a cryptic level* The dangers o’ yer future…
Bertie: What dangers?
Nate: *twirls out of the room, wiggling his fingers menacingly and calling ‘Daaannnngeers!’ as he leaves*
Okay, so maybe that last bit didn’t happen at all, but for obvious reasons I just wasn’t feeling his and Bertie’s relationship. To my dismay, the other option wasn’t much better.
Ariel is supposed to be ridiculously alluring and attractive, and there were certainly moments where he was. This allure was really hard to buy into, however, when one of his first conversations with Bertie went like this:
“I see the lady is speechless, for once.” His lips twitched with the faintest suggestion of a sneer as he permitted his gaze to come to rest on her cleavage. “Such a pity your intellect didn’t blossom like the rest of you.”
There’s a point where someone is no longer seductive, but creepy as hell, and Ariel passed that point several times. Throughout the book he was constantly trying to use Bertie to achieve his own means, and even after the change of heart towards the end, his and Bertie’s love felt a bit hollow.
I can’t be too hard on this book though, because there were lots of things I liked. I really enjoyed the way certain aspects of the plot wove together in the end, and the way flashbacks were often written in the form of a play script. The writing was excellent, and the world was built very skillfully. I felt like if everything had just slowed down for a gosh darn second, I would have really gotten into this read.
Perhaps I’ll reread it again when I’ve read more Shakespearian plays, because the references I did understand had me smiling silly. I can see how someone would enjoy this book, but alas, that someone was definitely not me.