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Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted April 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this one!

    What can I say about this one to do it justice? I loved it. Well, more to the point I LOVED it. It's a fun fantasy novel--a romance--that is satisfying and playful and oh-so-right. Our heroine, Beatrice, has grown up in the theatre. But not just any theatre, no, the only home she has ever known is home to every stage character ever written--all the plays ever penned. Her best friends are fairies--perhaps you've read about them before, for they are found in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her love interest? The man of her dreams? A minor character from A Little Mermaid. Her love-to-hate, hate-to-love enemy? Ariel from The Tempest.

    When we first meet Beatrice, she's in trouble. The Theatre Manager has decided that it is time for Beatrice to go. His excuse? She's not contributing to the theatre. She--and others along side her--plead with him; he grants her a few more days to prove that she has what it takes, that she belongs there.

    Her idea? To be a director! Though their productions generally never require a director--after all the originals know their lines backwards and forwards and then some--but if she were to change it up, change it around...then...maybe just maybe she'd find her place. Thus she seeks to recreate give it an ancient Egyptian setting.

    But life is never this easy, right? You know there are bound to be conflicts! I am not going to say much more. I don't want to spoil it. But it is oh-so-magical. It is fun and playful. It is giddy-making.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

    Absolutely Original!

    Prepare to enter the world of the Théâtre Illuminata, where every play that has ever been written comes to life. Our heroine, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, has spent nearly all of her life living amongst the props, players and stage hands; however, she is not a player nor is she on the stage crew. Left on the theater's doorstep when she was very young, Bertie has come to call the theater her home and has made friends with many of the cast members. Among these friends are Ariel, the sexy air spirit from <i>The Tempest</i>, Nate, her swashbuckling pirate crush from <i>The Little Mermaid</i>, and her co-conspirators... the four faeries from <i>A Midsummer Night's Dream</i> - Moth, Peaseblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed.

    A vivacious and somewhat troublesome teenager, Bertie can usually be found dying her hair outrageous colors, and causing no small amount of chaos (much to the dismay of the temperamental Stage Manager). However, Bertie's luck finally runs out and she discovers that she is being sent away from the theater - back into the real world where they say she belongs. In order to stay, she strikes a bargain with the Theater Manager. If she can prove herself as a good playwright and earn her place in the theater, she will be able to remain. Bertie eagerly accepts the challenge with her mind set on creating a new adaptation of <i>Hamlet</i>.

    The theater is nothing if not magical and its magic rests in the pages of The Book. As you can imagine, this is no ordinary book; it contains every play that has ever been written, and not only keeps the theater in working order but also binds the players to the stage. As such, the players cannot leave the theater. This is where things start to go wrong. While Bertie tries to get her new production together, Ariel hatches a plan to free himself from the slavery of the theater. He manages to get a hold of The Book and remove many of the pages. Suddenly, the other players begin to vanish and the theater begins to disintegrate before their eyes. To make matters worse, Sedna, the Sea Witch from <i>The Little Mermaid</i>, appears, kidnaps Nate and takes him back to her under-the-sea realm. I won't tell you how it ends but it definitely has a great cliff-hanger.

    I loved this novel. It's creative, artistic, magical and one of the most original stories that I have read in a very long time. Kudos to you Ms. Mantchev; your writing is phenomenal! In a time when the market is saturated with novels about vampires, werewolves and other recycled dark fantasy elements, <i>Eyes Like Stars</i> is a breath of fresh air. Indeed, it truly reads like a warm summer day in comparison to the drab darkness of most of the other novels I have read lately.

    Extra bonus: the cover art is gorgeous! I am ashamed to admit that I sometimes judge the book by the cover. The cover art is beyond amazing. It grabbed my eye from across the room and I knew I had to add it to my stack. I'm so glad I did!

    In short, if you are looking for a fresh plot, wonderful characters, a little romance and a whole lot of magic, read this book!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Want To Read It

    Yeah I know it hasn't come out, but from the cover it looks good...yes i'm basing me liking this book by the cover. But in my defence all the books i've read just because I liked the cover have been really good!!! All the books I recommend I read just because of the cover!!! yes even Twilight...I read that book BEFORE it got this big!!!

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2011


    LISA MANTCHEV IS A PHENOMANAL WRITER, and, i happen to hope to become an author, i hope to be able to write like her one day!! she is very descriptive, and Bertie is amazing!! i love how brave and confident she is- and i love how she always dyes her hair amazing colors. :) if you're looking for romance, adventure, and a wonderful heroine, this is your kind of book-
    and writer!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    All Her World's a Stage

    Shakespeare's Ophelia drowns herself nightly, the lost boys fly without strings attached, while Ariel leaves women sighing even as he walks past. This strange blend of classical characters and their quirks can only happen in one place: The Theatre Illuminata. The Theatre Illuminata houses every actor for every play ever written. However, they aren't simply actors, but the actual characters, born to play a specific role. Bertie, mischievous and tenacious, is the only person who plays no part on the stage. Beatrice (Bertie) Shakespeare Smith paints her nails black, dyes her hair blue, smokes clove cigarettes and according to Peasebottom, one of Bertie's best friends and Shakespeare's playful fairies, does these things to impress Nate, her would-be pirate boyfriend. Even though she plays no part in the stage, she still lives on it: her bedroom literally sits on the stage of The Theatre Illuminata, and disappears with every scene change. Although she lives in this fantastical world of magic and curtain calls, she certainly wasn't born to it. All she's been told about her past is that she was abandoned on the steps of the theatre and has no idea who her parents could be. Because she plays no active role at the theatre, Bertie soon find herself desperately searching for a reason to stay at the Theatre Illuminata.

    Lisa Mantchev scripts this quirky yet thoughtful novel with the heart of an actor and the mind of a novelist: her immanent love of theatre seeps into every page, while readers are drawn into her cleverly crafted story, ensnaring them with each sentence. Mantchev constructs a straightforward plot in which a spunky girl turns a theatre upside down to find her calling in life, falls for a gentlemanly pirate all while avoiding the trouble caused by her best friends, the fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream. As this unique group of characters helps Bertie find a permanent, useful place in the theatre, Bertie seeks her past, encounters a murderous sea witch, and finds out what happens when someone drinks from the "Drink Me" bottle on the Alice in Wonderland set. This sort of plot makes for an odd coupling, since the novel is intertwined with masterful classic literary tributes and the common plot of a teen romance novel. While readers will inevitably find the supporting cast endearing, they may also find that Bertie and her impending love triangle are nothing more than a juvenile fantasy. Yet the two aspects mingle well, producing an enjoyable read which rewards those who pay attention in English class.

    Yet the brilliance of this novel lies in a precarious position. Mantchev clearly knows her Shakespeare as well as many other classic plays and novels. She backs her novel with characters from many of Shakespeare's plays and never misses a chance to reference them. All those who have read Macbeth will give a whole hearted chuckle when Macbeth, at a breakfast buffet, picks up a cruller and mutters, "Is this a doughnut I see before me?" but is cut off from any impending doughnut speech when he sees raspberry jelly covering everything and begins to shriek. Sadly, the audience may miss the irony of this completely if they are not familiar with Shakespeare. After all, this light hearted read is presented to young adults, who don't necessarily read Shakespeare in their spare time. However, Eyes Like Stars has such ingenious allusions to the classics and word play that even those well out of their adolescent years will appreciate it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012


    It is a masterpiece. It is now one of my favorite books. I recommend it to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Dramatic ;)

    I started a book club at my school and this was the second book I selected for all of us to read. I have not read this complete series but of what I have read so far (this first book) it was very good. This was a very intresting book. At first, this book seemed a little childish, but as I read on it got better. The author's use of vocabulary I found was a little strange at times, and yet at others it brought me more intrigued to the story. I love theatre and I love reading, so this was an interesting book to me. Although, I must say it is one of those books that you just can't seem to put down. I also liked the "cast list" ;) in this book the characters were very unique, with detailed personalities. I would recommend this book to any readers who have at least a small amount of prior knowledge of the theatre, and enjoy reading. One last thing I also enjoyed about this book was it had modern twists of old theatre characters and tales. ~Brava!!! :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Really Good Book!

    Eyes Like Stars was a book I'd been looking at for awhile, but hadn't really gotten the nerve to buy. But, when I did, it not only fulfilled my expectations, it surpassed them!

    Bertie has lived in the Theatre Illuminata for as long as she can remember. Before arriving, she has no memory of anything, except what she's tried to figure out by writing out her own story in a play.
    One day, horrible news arrives. The Theater Manager is forcing her to leave the only home she has. Devastated, she tries to make him reconsider, and he does. The Theater Manager gives her only a few days to prove herself invaluable to Theatre Illuminata. Determined to do so, she sets out trying to restage a play. However, it is not as easy as it looks, especially with the two men trying to win her over. Nate, a dashing pirate, tries to protect Bertie from Ariel, a wind spirit who also seems to have a thing for the girl.

    The action and magic in this book, paired with the mystery of Bertie's past, the romance, and four mischievous fairies make this a wonderful read. I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a good fantasy tale.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen for

    Beatrice Shakespeare Smith lives in a theater. She's not an actress, but she knows every part. The Theatre Illuminata is the only home Bertie has ever know. But one mishap too many has the Theater Director determined to send Bertie on her way -unless she can prove that she is a valuable part of the Theater. Now, Bertie must fight for her home while unlocking the secrets of her past...

    Ok, I'll try to control my gushing and fan-girliness over this book, but EYES LIKE STARS is amazing!!! This has to be one of the most creative, imaginative, beautiful novels I have read. I loved the setting of the Theatre Illuminata and the idea that all the players of every play lived in the theater and were able to be called upon whenever they are needed (and sometimes when they're not needed!).

    Lisa Mantchev has managed to capture the magic of the theater in this stunningly written novel. I honestly can't believe this is her debut. All the characters are so richly drawn and detailed and I could hear various voices for everyone as I was reading. Everything was so vividly written, I could actually see the see the story unfolding as a play in front of me. The fairies offer fun comic relief, whereas the tension between Ariel and Bertie provides plenty of drama. The dialog is witty and snappy and lots of fun. This was a book that I literally had to tear myself away from and force myself to go to work and sleep - I never wanted to stop reading.

    Shakespeare does play heavily into the novel, but you don't need to be a Shakespearean scholar to follow along and recognize the characters. Also, Lisa Mantchev does an excellent job filling the reader in on the important details of each part, without it losing the flow of the story. There are several plays and characters that make appearances throughout and discovering each one is part of the joy of reading this novel.

    As someone who has been heavily involved in theater, I loved the subtle details about theater life that only theater people really and truly understand - the arguments over props vs. sets, the actor's egos. But even if you've never had any experience in a theater, there is sure to be something you'll love in EYES LIKE STARS.

    I highly recommend this to all readers, even readers who typically shy away from fantasy. This didn't feel like a typical fantasy to me, so I'm sure it will attract even those who don't usually read that genre. I'm excited to see this will be a trilogy - I'm looking forward to reading more from this fabulous debut author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014


    This is a really good book kinda hard for me to unstand but it was good reading the second book right now

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2013

    Why it may or may not be your cup of tea...

    The love interests in this story are a genre known as fey lovers. Like fey books full of harsh characters made to seem as if they think of the main character as an aquisition rather than a person and learn otherwise throughout the book? Or in this case the entire series... you may like this book. While one of the love interests is "technically" human he still has a very fey attitude when it comes to the main character Bertie.

    Like books where there is a unique story telling prop for at least some of the time? If you don't this book may irk you. As it is partially told through play scripts, giving you a feel of reading through shakespeare plays.

    Like twisted worlds? Because this book definitely gives you that inception/contrast what is real and what is false feel throughout not just the book but the whole series that intentionally leaves many things unexplained and up to the reader to digest and keeps you from finding your balance all the time.

    I personally really enjoyed this book for its fey qualities and the unearthly twistedness of it all, but I know that many people will not enjoy a book if everything is not explained and made sense of. But if you enjoy what I like to call dream logic fantasy thi is perfect for you.

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  • Posted October 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I participated in theater throughout high school, and I absolute

    I participated in theater throughout high school, and I absolutely loved it. I worked backstage (I can't sing or act), and I fell in love with the people and the absolute chaos that is the theater. That's probably part of the reason why I loved Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars so much. It reminded me of how it felt to be in the theater, surrounded by people who become a second family.

    Bertie's life is chaotic to say the least. She's grown up with constant scene changes, without the knowledge of how she came to live in the theater, and with the fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream as her best friends. Needless to say, she gets into a lot of trouble.

    The characters in the book were great. Bertie was a strong, confident, sometimes stubborn lead. She never took no for an answer, and even during absolute chaos was able to improvise. The supporting cast was what was most spectacular to me. Many of the characters were from various different plays, and none of them seemed out of character. I imagined that's just how they would act if they were living in the real world (especially the fairies). I think I should also mention Ariel, from The Tempest, who ended up being my favorite character from the book. I was intrigued by his character, then I hated him, I pitied him, and I loved him. I ended up understanding his motivation to bring down the theater, and also saw him grow as a character.

    Fans of the theater will enjoy seeing their favorite characters outside of their respective plays, while other readers might be inspired to go read those plays to find out more. I loved this book, and can't wait to read the sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2013



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  • Posted December 5, 2012

    I have to say, I was disappointed. Immeasurably. Maybe I got my

    I have to say, I was disappointed. Immeasurably. Maybe I got my hopes up too high (as many people have mentioned, the cover is just gorgeous, and really lures you in).  I thought I would really enjoy this book, after reading so many rave reviews, but alas. I suppose I should just air my grievances already. Warning: there may be spoilers ahead.

    It comes down to the characters. The secondary characters I just adored, but all the main ones irritated me. Bertie is not that much younger than I am, and while I appreciate she grew up in a dramatic environment, she's very inconsistent. She says one thing, does another, and changes her mind five times before coming to a final decision. As a rule, I believe love triangles are one of the most obnoxious tropes out there, but occasionally an author does them well. Not in this book. Her loves are Ariel and Nate, and they treat her abysmally. For some reason they seem to view her less as a human being and more of an object to be won. Hell, her first kisses with both of them made me extremely uncomfortable, as they were unwanted and reeked of (in my opinion) sexual assault. (She drinks the DRINK ME bottle from Alice in Wonderland, which basically acts as a roofie. Ariel forces her to dance with him and kisses her, though she can't even remember her kiss. It's only when she acts it out later with Nate that she remembers, at which point Nate is basically forcing himself on her. I'm not being dramatic, Bertie says &quot;No!&quot; and tries to push him off. I'm sorry, was I supposed to see this as romantic? Because it's not.) Then Bertie accidentally gets &quot;married&quot; to both of them in Perchance to Dream, the sequel. With Nate, she didn't know what she was doing. With Ariel, she tried to make him stop but he says something to the effect of &quot;You're as much mine as you are his.&quot; Like he's somehow earned the right to possess her? Are you serious right now? Why isn't there anyone else upset about this? If the boys actually treated her, you know, like a being capable of making her own decisions and choices instead of disrespecting her and disregarding her desires I might not be so harsh. But during all the &quot;romantic&quot; interactions it feels like Bertie is constantly trying to push them away (although she is admittedly conflicted about her own desires, if someone respects you, they will give you time to figure things out, not push you harder). In my opinion, Bertie is given next to no bodily autonomy within the text and it's extremely frustrating to me. It's a trend I don't like in teen literature, especially literature aimed at teen girls. It definitely promotes unhealthy messages about dating and relationships (the way we are supposed to see Nate/Ariel as potential romantic interests despite how the treat Bertie frightens me, especially when statistics suggest 1 in 5 teen girls are going to be abused by their dating partners). At one point Nate, during a sword fight with Ariel, (which was influenced by Sedna's magic/their hatred for each other), ends up carelessly shoving Bertie away and she slams against the wall. She's bleeding and they don't even notice or care. Look, I may be making mountains out of molehills, so you can decide for yourself. I've said my piece.

    I wanted to give it at least two/three stars for the gorgeous descriptions and original ideas, but I just can't. Like others have said, the cover is glorious, but I found the content within to be lacking. Oh well. Better luck next time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2012

    I loved it!

    I loved this series of books!

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  • Posted April 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Act One

    Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, a likable 17-year-old, must find a way to make herself invaluable to the Théâtre Illuminata or she will be forced to leave the only home she has ever known. How she arrived at the theater as a baby is somewhat of a mystery, and through the years she has been allowed to run free and cause mayhem of one kind or another. Beatrice proposes to re-stage Hamlet set in ancient Egypt and promises it will be the sell-out performance that will restore the Théâtre to its former glory. If that were all, the story line would be fairly straightforward. However, the Théâtre Illuminata is no ordinary theater. Characters from the world's major plays live inside, summoned forth by pinning a note on the Call Board. They are bound to the physical confines of the theater by the pages in The Complete Works of the Stage, an enchanted book. Scene changes happen magically by command, though human Properties and Scenic Managers argue over which pieces belong to whom.

    Bertie has only ever known the Théâtre; it's been her playroom, her connection to friends, and her home since infantry. Her room is a set, she pulls all her clothes from wardrobe, and she uses props and stage makeup whenever she likes, but things are beginning to change. Her actions are no longer being over looked and, since she's not a true "character" but a orphan given to the Théâtre, she's (now 17) being treated as someone who has to take full responsibility of her life. Thus, to prove her step into adult hood and that she can truly be apart of "home" - she decides to direct a play. Not just any play, a new version of Hamlet.

    This story really sparkled! Honestly, I got the book from the library solely for the cover - which I found amazing. She rocks the blue hair! Yet, the story is so unique and enjoyable that it is hard NOT to dig right in. I loved Bertie's various personalities (vulnerability, curiosity, being sarcastic, etc.) and I believe her character really made her different from most female leads. Plus, the chemistry she develops with Nate, a pirate from THE LITTLE MERMAID, and Ariel, an air spirit from THE TEMPEST kept me coming back for me. It's truly an enchanting tale and I cannot wait for Perchance to Dream.

    Likes: Bertie's stubborn interactions with the Théâtre manager are hilarious! Great humor throughout.

    Dislikes: I know the fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream where there to provide comic relief, but they were almost TOO annoying at times.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012

    LOOOOOVe it

    cant wait to read the next one what will she do??

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Absolutely Brilliant

    If you buy only ONE book for the next year, it must be this one. I was captivated by the story after only the first page by the intricately weaved plot line that leaves you on the edge of your seat. The main plot line is that a girl named Beatrice Shakespeare Smith (affectionately known as Bertie) lives in thr Theater Illuminata, where all characters that have ever been written into a play reside. However, she isn't a player herself, and a conflict leaves her needing to find a way to prove herself so she can keep everything she has ever known. She has the help of her friends at the theater, and ultimately she ends up finding a way to make her own story rather than just watching everyone else's. Of course, there is romance involved, and the romance left me stunned; everything about Bertie's feelings and actions were descrbed so beautifully that I cried multiple times while reading and it left me longing for her to find true happiness almost in a way that someone wishes for a friend. Though the romance begins in the first book, it really takes off in the second.I have never felt so inspired and consumed by a book since I began reading. It is safe to say that this is the best book I have read in a LONG time and I would urge anyone with a love of decriptive writing to read it. Not all of the plot is explicitly told to the reader, sometimes things need to be figured out on their own, which makes the story all the better of a read.If you read this book you will not regret it.

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  • Posted January 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recomended

    I absolutely love this book and the rest of the series. It's very well written and very romantic. I love the idea about having all the play characters in it. To me it seems very mich alike to the Sisters Grimm series as in which characters are in it because you know the plays but not the characters so again highly recomend this book and the entire series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012



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