All Beatrice (Bertie) Shakespeare Smith knows is the Théâtre Illuminata. At the Théâtre, players are born to fill their particular role, bound to the building itself by The Book. Bertie has no idea who her parents are; just that she was left at the Théâtre to be taken care of. Despite not being a player, at the Théâtre she feels like she belongs. Living with the stage as her bedroom and the four fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as her closest companions, Bertie grows up to love the written word, action, and chaos (well, maybe she doesn’t love chaos but she can’t seem to help but create it). Unfortunately, it’s this attraction to disaster that constantly gets Bertie in trouble. When it finally goes too far, Bertie needs to find out what makes her indispensible before she loses her home and her family.
Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars is a truly unique new fantasy. Though the beginning of the novel was a bit confusing, it didn’t take very long to become engrossed in Bertie’s story. Eyes Like Stars weaves script with narrative, so that Bertie’s story can’t be told without both. Along these lines, I love how Lisa Mantchev emphasizes the power of words and blurs the distinction between what is written and what is real. Plays that are likely familiar to the reader (such as Hamlet) come to life, and even with such liberty, Lisa Mantchev manages to stay true to the nature of each character. Though sometimes irksome, the four fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream increase the hilarity of the story so that the reader can’t help but laugh. As the scenes unfold, the charismatic yet dangerous Ariel (from Shakespeare’s The Tempest) enters the story, as does the modest and kind pirate Nate (from The Little Mermaid). It is particularly interesting to read how they play off of each other as they vie for Bertie’s attention. Overall, Eyes Like Stars is a really enjoyable read once you get past the very beginning. The characters are wonderful, and the imagination that went into this story is incredible. As the first installment in a trilogy, I was pleased to say that the end of Eyes Like Stars felt resolved enough to leave the reader satisfied while leaving plenty of storylines hanging in order to build anticipation for Act II. 8 out of 10.
P.S. Check back tomorrow for Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars playlist!