Eyes Like Stars – Lisa Mantchev
Feiwel and Friends (imprint of Macmillan), 2009
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, but lives on the stage; not an orphan, she can only guess at the identities of her parents. She has been with the Théâtre Illuminata for as long as she can remember, where the characters of every play ever written are bound to their parts by the magical tome of scripts known only as the Book. All that, however, is about to change. Bertie is fighting for her right to stay at the Theatre, while Shakespeare’s air spirit Ariel is prepared to destroy everything in order to leave.
I saw this book on the website Goodreads (www.goodreads.com) and liked the very intriguing blurb and beautiful front cover. Unfortunately, it turned out to be yet another of those books that other people glowingly recommend and I just don’t get. Bertie was good. She was a consistent character with bright personality and a strong voice. The Players and their original stories were regularly milked for humour and while sometimes this worked, overall it was not counter-balanced by genuine investment in their personalities, including the underdeveloped love interests in Bertie’s inevitable love triangle. The setting also felt weird. Bertie is a thoroughly modern girl with her blue hair and jeans (loved the hair) but the Players and Théâtre crew didn’t seem to know what era they were from, one minute all classical English and the next throwing in jarring slang, while the audience from outside the Théâtre came across as exaggerated Edwardian aristocracy.
That said, there was a huge pleasure for me in seeing Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew finally get kicked in the shins. He’s had it coming for centuries. I quite liked Ariel too. The idea of the immortal Players is a very intriguing one, all it needed was a more solid context. Eyes Like Stars is the first in a trilogy and I will be interested to see where it goes with book two, Perchance To Dream.