Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review: Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I

Title: Eyes Like Stars, Théâtre Illuminata, Act I
Author:  Lisa Mantchev
Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA/fantasy
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN:   0312380968
All her world's a stage. 
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She is not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but has no lines of her own.
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 characters of every place 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.

Open Curtain 

Overall rating: 9/10 flowers
Add this book to your: Goodreads | Shelfari | Library Thing | Visual Bookshelf

Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars is highly entertaining and will leave readers calling for an encore!  If you love spirited heroines and clever fantasies, this book is definitely for you.  A magical coming-of-age story that is overflowing with humor and originality, Eyes Like Stars combines an imaginative setting with a strong-willed heroine, an enchanting and persuasive air spirit, a devoted pirate, and a colorful cast of theatre characters.  I reread this book almost immediately after finishing it, found it even more enjoyable the second time through, and can't wait to read the next two books in the Theatre Illuminata trilogy!

What I Liked:
-     I loved the quirky and creative premise of this book, which takes place in a magical theatre populated by all the characters who have ever graced the stage.  Fun!
-     Bertie is an intelligent and determined heroine.  She is stubborn and prepared to fight for what she wants.  I admired her tenacity and bravery.  Despite the fantastical nature of the plot and Bertie's extremely unusual upbringing, she is still easy to relate to and root for.  It is great fun to follow her as she begins to unravel the mysteries of her past and look boldly toward the future.
-     I had no idea where this story was headed.  Eyes Like Stars takes readers on a completely original journey.  I was pleasantly surprised by several of the plot twists and enjoyed them all just as much the second time I read the book.
-     Ariel.  Whether he was infuriating and conniving or devoted and endearing, he always brought the tension on the page up several notches.  At times I wasn't sure if I wanted Bertie to love him or throttle him, but I always wanted more of him.  Much more!
-     There are lots of memorable and hilarious moments in this book, and I found myself laughing aloud several times while reading it.  One scene I particularly enjoyed is on p. 103 (warning: minor spoilers ahead) :
"Mrs. Edith had told her once that the costume made the character, but only now did Bertie understand what she'd meant.  The corset was dainty, demure, pin-striped, and it wanted her to slap Ariel across the face.
But Bertie was more than the sum of her clothing, so she cocked her arm and punched him as hard as she could in the stomach."
 -     The Players are entertaining and it is delightful to see such an assortment of characters cross paths with one another.  From Hamlet's constant brooding to Lady Macbeth's fits of temper, they are all consistently funny!
-     Even readers such as myself, who are not familiar with the behind-the-scenes details of lighting effects and set changes, will enjoy immersing themselves in the unique atmosphere of the Theatre Illuminata.
-     The main characters in this book are flawed.  They have ulterior motives, make foolish choices, act rashly, harbor regrets, have big dreams, and sometimes behave selfishly, and those attributes make each one of them more believable and memorable.
-     Lastly, I loved the tango.  Loved it.

What I Wished:
-     The first chapter of this book feels a bit like you've been tossed into the chaos of the theatre a little abruptly, and I was initially concerned that the mischievous Midsummer Night's Dream fairies' juvenile sense of humor would set the tone for the entire book.  Thankfully, it doesn't take more than a few chapters to get a better feel for the fantastical theatre, and not only do the little fairies to begin grow on you but they really don't set the tone for all of the humor in the book.
-     I wanted more Ariel!  I am so glad this is the first book in a trilogy. 
-     Occasionally, Nate's accented speech made his pirate-ness overshadow the rest of his personality and individuality for me.  [This complaint should be taken with a grain of salt because it is likely related to the fact that I read this book aloud to my husband & felt that I was sometimes turning Nate into a caricature of a pirate as I read his accent.]

Eyes Like Stars is a fresh and original fantasy, and I very much look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.  Today is the official release date for the trade paperback of Eyes Like Stars.  The second book, Perchance to Dream, is scheduled for release May 25th.  The third book, tentatively entitled So Silver Bright, will be released next year.  Fans of theater, readers who enjoy imaginative YA fantasies like Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars or Neil Gaiman's Stardust, and readers who enjoy humorous YA such as Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett, should definitely check out Eyes Like Stars.  You can learn more about the Theatre Illuminata trilogy by visiting the official website HERE or visiting Lisa Mantchev's websitelivejournal | blog | twitter.

Side note:  Unless it is an illustrated novel, I normally do not mention cover art in my reviews, but this particular cover is just far too beautiful to ignore.  If you love the cover art as much as I do, you may want to check out artist Jason Chan's website and read Lisa Mantchev's interview with him HERE.  His Perchance to Dream cover is stunning & I can't wait to see what he will come up with for the third Theatre Illuminata book, So Silver Bright.

Add it to your: Goodreads |Shelfari | Library Thing | Visual Bookshelf  

If you have already read Eyes Like Stars, check out this gorgeous trailer for Perchance to Dream (featuring some of Jason Chan's beautiful concept art for the Perchance to Dream cover):


Candace said...

This is the one you were telling me about! I'll have to keep my eyes open for it. Great review!

Violet said...

Thanks, Candace! Yep, this is the book I was telling you about. I loved it! :-)

Book Sake said...

Great review and thanks so much for mentioning the cover artist. It's a gorgeous cover and we have an artist in our reviewing family, so I'm sure he will appreciate the link even more.
- Jessica

Violet said...

Jessica - I love this cover art so much that I really HAD to mention Jason Chan. His website doesn't appear to have been updated for awhile, but you can see another of his book covers here. All of his cover illustrations are the type that grab my attention from across a crowded bookstore. Love his work!

Shy said...

I am also a BIG, BIG fan of this book! I totally love the fantasy created by the author and besides Ariel, I also adored those fairies! I think that they were absolutely funny and one of the main attractions of the book. I enjoyed reading your review and I like how you divide in into sections =)

GABY said...

I have this one on my TBR list and it sounds amazing. I'm glad that the heroine is intelligent and that the story was so different that you did'n know where it was taking you!

Thanks for the review ;) 9 from 10 is awesome!

Kathy Martin said...

This book is somewhere on my TBR mountain. Your review made me want to dig it out and read it. Great review!

Darlyn said...

I have to admit I have not read any of the series yet but I read a lot of great things about it. And yes, I love the cover too!

chrissie_goldsmith said...

I haven't read any of this series yet but the premise certainly does sound original and interesting. This one is already on my TBR list but I might have to try and get my hands on a copy sooner rather than later :)

Larissa {Larissa's Bookish Life} said...

oooh I had not heard of this book, it sounds awesome! =)

Thanks for the review!

Sabrina @ about happy books said...

Great review, the book sounds so special and good. Will check it out.

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