{Review} EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata, #1)
   THE FAIRIES FLEW suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, busy assessing her reflection in the looking glass and thinking perhaps she shouldn't have dyed her hair blue on this particular morning, turned to glare at them when they rocketed past the end of her nose for the third time in as many minutes.
   "If you make me spill this stuff on the stage," she said, "I'll squeeze you until your heads pop off."

(Page 1, US e-book Edition)

                                                                                            “What color is pandemonium? It sounds yellow.” 


EYES LIKE STARS is one of those books I recommend to people in a whisper. I cradle it close to my chest and offer it out in my palms like it's made of starlight, precious and in danger of being snuffed out by the person I'm sharing it with. Sometimes you feel so attached to a story that it drives you batty when another person looks at it and doesn't see the same appeal you do. But this blog is about me sharing with you stories that have left their marks on me, therefore I wouldn't be doing justice to the Theatre Illuminata series if I didn't open the curtains and set the stage for you.

The Théâtre Illuminata is a vibrant and fantastic setting; a working theater with very special players. See the characters onstage aren't your normal folks in costumes who go out for drinks in running shoes and tank tops afterwards. At this theater, every character ever written into existence by a human playwright really does exist. They are self aware that they are characters, somewhere between real and not real within the theater's walls, called into existence by scene changes and notes pinned to the call board. It's a theater lover's dream setting, rife with familiar puns and quotes, with all the characters you've fallen in love with as something more than names on paper. The théâtre is a complex place, and you have to be patient and willing to learn about it slowly as you follow the characters directly into performance and the storyline, but as someone who isn't extremely knowledgeable in theatre, I can say it wasn't that hard to keep up.

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, more commonly referred to as Bertie is the one thing out of place in the theater. She is not a player, but a ward, taken in when she was left outside as an infant. It can be said that Bertie did not have a traditional upbringing. Could you envision a girl growing up surrounded by characters meant to dramatize the human condition for entertainment NOT being a bit dramatic herself? To me, Bertie is a delightfully complex character. I like a heroine who makes me want to motherly chastise her now and again, one who makes me disagree with her decisions and challenges me. In my mind that's where the vibrancy of a character comes in, though with Bertie's blue hair she probably doesn't need that much help. She is very child-like in some senses, rebellious, curious, quirkily artistic and witty. Her best friends are the fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream, mischievous and making me laugh out loud more than once. The humor in this book is fast paced and subtle at times; this is not a quick read or something you can follow while distracted. You have to be prepared to fully immerse yourself in this world.

Now normally I get most excited when I talk about the characters in a story, and don't get me wrong I do love everyone in EYES LIKE STARS. Nate is a pirate from The Little Mermaid, Ariel is an airy spirit from The Tempest, and the burgeoning love triangle in this story doesn't grate on my nerves the way a lot of them do. That's probably because love and Bertie's relationships with the other characters, while important, are really part of the scenery. What this story is, down at its ink and paper roots, is a tale about a girl who has grown up surrounded by vibrant characters and has struggled to find her own sense of self. This is her show, her journey to grow into herself and realize the potential she has to write her own pathways into existence. I will never ever tire of reading stories with that goal, and I have never read one that does it in the same way as this.

See, the thing I found most enchanting about this book is the way Mantchev brought theatre into the story in more than one format. There are books within the book, moments where the format changes to that of a script as Bertie writes her life out in the manner that she is most accustomed to. I found that utterly fascinating, something that kept my interest on the page, and also perhaps made Bertie's character stand out more. It's a big sign of who she is as a person, her essence if you will. She has learned to best understand and/or question the world around her by writing it down into dialogue and scene cues. Essentially any moment where the format of the story changes is a moment where the reader is being taken into Bertie's head for some intimate one on one time, a chance for us to the see the world through her eyes for a time. It's a creative way to go about it, and it was probably my favorite part of the book.

If you love theatre, characters that are rife with the human condition (good and annoying aspects), a colorful plot arc and a setting that lends to the fantasy aspect of the story beautifully, then EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev is a book I'd recommend to you.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 (A handful of burgeoning romantic feels, some sexual innuendos from the fairies)
Language: PG ( Cursing is referred to abstractly in the aftermath )
Violence: PG ( A few fist fights between fairies, a couple almost fights, but nothing severely violent.)
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The cover is gorgeous, I think we can all agree on that. We see our heroine, Bertie, and she seems both ethereal and a tad rebellious at the same time. The way she glances off the cover seems to say "No really, I dare you to read this." You want to follow her where she is going, and if you open up the pages you certainly do.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Lisa Mantchev
Release Date: July 7th 2009
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends // Macmillan
Received: Purchased

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. 

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