I will happily drop out of school if the Theatre Illuminata will take me into their fold. Sure, I can’t act or paint or do anything in a theater, but I would magically acquire a skill for them.
The Theatre Illuminata is where “Eyes Like Stars,” the first in Lisa Mantchev’s trilogy, takes place. The story itself follows Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, a girl who isn’t an actress but lives in the theater. She’s best friends with Nate, a pirate from “The Little Mermaid,” the fairies from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Ariel, the wispy air spirit from “The Tempest.”
But the theater is no longer enough for Bertie — not because she doesn’t love it, but because she’s quite curious about how she got to the theater. The typical questions plague her: Who is she? Where did she come from?
But Bertie isn’t your typical heroine, and in a world where everybody knows their place and their lines, Bertie’s about to create her own part.
I could be less cheesy in the description of this book, but for some strange reason my cheesiness oozes out when I find something I really love. “Eyes Like Stars” is a book I really love.
This story has nothing that I don’t love — the world, the characters, the plot — all of it is bloody brilliant. Bertie herself is one of the strongest heroines I’ve ever seen. Sure, she’s stuck in the love triangle that I hate oh-so-much, but she ain’t no Bella Swan. She’s strong and feisty and clever and no, she’s not perfect, but she’s a pretty damn fabulous character.
The world of the Theatre Illuminata is one that I could live in every day. It’s vivid and well-imagined, creative in a way that I can only be jealous of. It’s a fantasy world, to be sure, but it’s not so fantastical that those who don’t love fantasy can’t enjoy it, and it’s not so real that fantasy lovers stare and get disappointed. It walks a fine line and manages to balance it
But the highlight of this book comes from the subtle shout-outs to other texts, mainly Shakespeare. Perhaps it’s the inner English nerd in me, but I ate it up. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” fairies? I love it. Ophelia is addicted to drowning on stage? Crazy and perfect. And, of course, the ever present mocking of favorite quotes.
But, really, who hasn’t wished that Macbeth would ask, “‘Is this a doughnut I see before me?”