By Lisa Mantchev
Lisa Mantchev grew up in the small Northern California town of Ukiah and can pinpoint her first forays into fiction to the short stories she thumped out on an ancient typewriter. She makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with her husband Angel, her daughter Amélie and four hairy miscreant dogs. When not scribbling, she can be found on the beach, up a tree, making jam or repairing things with her trusty glue gun. A list of her short fiction can be found on her authorly website (http://www.lisamantchev.com/) and Eyes Like Stars, her debut novel, is due out in the Summer of 2009 from Feiwel & Friends. You can read more about it at http://www.theatre-illuminata.com/.
All the worlds her stage.
Beatrice 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.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters 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.
Lisa Mantchev throws you right into the world of the Théâtre Illuminata. It's disorienting at first, until the rules governing Bertie's world become clear. I think it works well though, because it allows the consistency and detail of Mantchev's world to shine through.
I enjoyed this book when I read it. I loved the sweet romance of Nate and Bertie as well as the sexual tension between Ariel and Bertie. (She can have her cake and eat it too, right? Usually I know which guy I want to get the girl but I rather liked both options.) I loved that Mantchev developed Ariel's motivation, because it is the rare villain who can be convincing without a montive other that being evil for the sake of being evil. And it's what Ariel deserves, coming from THE TEMPEST. The play has some thorny moral issues that are only more confused by a post-imperialist reading.
But I love it even more since I've been reading the hideously detailed introductions to the Shakespeare plays for my class. (If you're using a college level text, like the Arden Shakespeare or Oxford World Classics, the introduction will be as long as the play itself.) These introductions spend quite a bit of time discussing staging. What the most famous versions were like, how things hanged as the interpretation changed, what changes are made to emphasized one or two themes of the play . . . it makes it so beautiful that Bertie decides her place in the Théâtre Illuminata is as a director. The director's vision is vital to a performance. It keeps the play relevant, focused, and innovative.
The Théâtre Illuminata faces more danger than that of Ariel's actions. Attendance is flagging. The characters mock Bertie since they all know their lines perfectly - but it's kind of terrible. They do the same performance every time. Variation gives plays vitality. It's only fitting for the spunky Bertie to direct.
In addition to delivering a great plot, Mantchev knows how to give enough answers to satisfy while leaving enough threads open to make the reader eager for Act II. I can't wait for more rescues and revelations, nor can I wait to see how the consequences of Act I unfold. And if you like the characters, I do recommend reading some Shakespeare. Especially A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, the sourse of Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Moth, and Cobweb. It was my first Shakespeare experience, back in seventh grade. And it's a good one to start with because it's hilarious.
EYES LIKE STARS is a strong debut, and I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy. I also can't wait to see what Mantchev does outside of Théâtre Illuminata. It's books like this that convince me a faerie on the cover is a sign of quality.