Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arty -- Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith lives in a world any thespian or writer would dream of - the Theatre Illuminata, where all the characters of every play ever written reside. Bertie, though not a Player herself, has lived there most of her life, left there by her unknown mother. She and her cohorts, the fairies Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed, and Cobweb, are constantly making trouble, breaking rules, and causing general destruction.

But it's still a surprise when the Theatre Manager decides to kick Bertie out of the Theatre, unless she can come up with a way to be useful. So Bertie, the fairies, and Bertie's friend (crush), the pirate Nate, put their heads together and come up with... Hamlet set in Egypt.

But the Egyptian Hamlet isn't the main idea of the book, or it's not the only one. There's also Ariel, the air elemental from The Tempest, who may or may not be 'good.' Of course, there's Bertie's inevitable questions relating to her parents, how she came to the Theatre, etc. And then there are... the hungry fairies.

As a disclaimer to any negative points I give this book, let me make it clear that I did enjoy it. It's utterly original, the writing is excellent, and (most of) the characters shine with backstory and ulterior motive. The fairies are hilarious, even if you can just ignore the names because of their uniformity. And Ariel... you will hate his guts, while loving him at the same time.

That said, I was disappointed in Bertie. All the reviews said that she is a 'strong, spunky heroine,' which is generally code for 'whiny, stubborn, self-absorbed heroine.' Bertie wasn't that bad, but she wasn't anything special, unless you count her penchant for swearing and dying her hair odd colors. She just didn't seem like anyone you would look up to, appreciate being around.

The language was another problem that I didn't especially like. It wasn't that bad, but it was coarse, and annoying. Bertie's relationship with Ariel was also a bit... too fleshed out for my taste, especially in one part. I know there have been worse scenes. But then there are much better.

The story handles its several plots well, though sometimes Nate was forgotten (not a tragedy, really). The end, however, was perhaps too easy - not all the questions are answered, leaving it wide open for its sequel, but nothing came as much of a surprise. Still, the resolution left me dying for the next book.

Eyes Like Stars has its fair share of problems. But for discerning readers, I'd have to recommend it. The sequel, Perchance to Dream (which has a cover just as beautiful as the first), came out this May.

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