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Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I Hardcover – July 7, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Theatre Illuminata Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, a sarcastic, 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 restage 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. The fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream provide the comic relief, and Ariel and Ophelia provide some of the action. Readers who have some knowledge of or interest in theatrical productions will have the easiest time following the twists and turns of the plot, which is especially confusing in the beginning. However, wondering what crazy thing will happen next will keep them going. The ending is a little unsatisfying, and it is clear that a sequel is coming. Nonetheless, the story is clever, if a bit melodramatic at times, and Beatrice is a fun character.—Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Lisa Mantchev's theatrical fantasy 'Eyes Like Stars' pits a plucky orphan, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, and her fairy attendants against the wiles of Ariel and a stuffy stage manager. (New York Times Book Review)

All the world's truly a stage in Lisa Mantchev's innovative tale, Eyes Like Stars. Magical stagecraft, unmanageable fairies, and a humourous cast of classical characters form the backdrop for this imaginative coming-of age. (Suzanne Collins)

With an iron-willed girl hero whose magic is with words, and a universe that is also the ultimate theater, Eyes Like Stars is the most unusual fantasy I've read this year! I recommend it to anyone who loves drama, strong girls, and rowdy faery folk! (Tamora Pierce)

Electric…delicious…fascinating…vivid…smart and sassy…bawdy and hilarious…Brava! Encore! (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)

Bertie's determined efforts to become invaluable form the basic plot in this wildly imagined adventure…Mantchev clearly knows theater from all angles, and she uses inventive play-within-play formats to create a tumble of multiple, even metaphysical narratives filled with delicious banter and familiar characters from the dramatic canon. Many teens, particularly those with some theatrical background, will look forward to the sequel suggested at the end of this bravely flamboyant and wholly original romp. (Booklist)

Mantchev's first novel feels dreamlike…underneath is a solid story about the search for happiness and identity. Inside jokes will delight drama club devotees…but this passionate debut should attract a broader readership as well. (Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: HL740L (What's this?)
  • Series: Theatre Illuminata (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312380968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312380960
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,628,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Théâtre Illuminata is the only home Bertie has ever known. It's a magical place where The Book, which contains every script written, resides along with countless players who are not born, but written into their parts. Bertie is an outsider, a human orphan, left at the mercy of the Theater Manager and raised by the players. But when her endless tricks and tomfoolery drive some at the Theatre Illuminata to the end of their ropes, Bertie is given an ultimatum: become uniquely useful, or get out. But there is much more at stake than Bertie ever realized...

One word comes to mind when it comes to Eyes Like Stars, and that is scintillating. Lisa Mantchev's debut novel positively sparkles. It is overflowing with all the elements that make up great reads: fabulous humor, a spunky, clever, and lovable heroine, four mischievous and amusing fairies, a dashing pirate, a pernicious villain, and a deep secret that could change everything. Mantchev structures the novel in an interesting and enjoyable fashion, using prose and drama styles to create a "play within a play" effect that keeps things interesting. Because the novel starts out briskly and doesn't really slow down, some readers may feel a bit confused at the very beginning of the novel, but its not long before things click into place perfectly. And even though Eyes Like Stars alludes heavily to Shakespeare's work, knowledge of Shakespeare and his works aren't required in order to enjoy this extremely clever, lively, and glittering read. As each page goes by, readers learn something new and delightful about the Théâtre Illuminata, until at the very end it is impossible to let go of Bertie and her cast. This hilarious and quirky debut demands an encore!

Cover Comments: Stunning. This cover captures the eye!
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Format: Hardcover
I wasn't looking forward to writing this review, because it would be hard to tamp down my enthusiasm.

This was exactly the book I wanted to read.

The word that kept coming back to me as I read it was effortless. The humor works perfectly, and the dialogue rivals Gilmore Girls--only it's a lot more genuine. The cast--and it is a large cast, since, you know, every character from every play lives in the Theater--was handled deftly, and even the minor characters shine.

I was worried when I started, afraid that worldbuilding could have weighted the manuscript down. That's the problem with coming up with something so unique, so fresh--most writers don't know how to make it work. I'm always terribly interested in the workings of the world in which characters I like live, but oftentimes it gets in the way of plot. Again, the word effortless pops up. Mantchev tells the reader just what they need to know to make the story viable--no more--and leaves the rest up to the imagination...or perhaps the next books in the series.

And the voice?

Oh wow, the voice rocks my socks. Glib but tinted with mystery, new but old, curious and straightforward, the contradictions only add depth and flavor to an already solid plot.

As for the characters, I fear saying much because their stories are so tightly woven that I might give spoilers. Trust me, you don't want spoilers. You just want to experience the magic that is this book.

And I think that's what's been missing from a lot of fantasy stories: real magic. But Eyes Like Stars has magic and so much more. Can't wait for the next installment to get here!
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Format: Hardcover
Let's start with THE mother or all disclaimers: I am actually related to the author.

Nepotism is an interesting thing; it's most likely what got me cast in two of my sister's plays growing up (considering I can't act my way out of a hat box) but it's not what's led me to review her debut novel: "Eyes Like Stars."

Reading "Eyes Like Stars" is a bit like seeing my sister's head explode on the page...only with caffeine and sugar infused fairies. I've had the benefit of reading several incarnations of "Eyes Like Stars" and the inevitable wailing began with me lamenting: "you cut the bit I liked!" That said the end result is one of the most imaginative, thoughtful and well, just plain amazing books that I've read in a really long time. I explain to my friends and colleagues that the book is about Bertie, an orphan growing up in a theatre surrounded by the most famous and notorious characters in every play ever written. When Bertie is told she must leave the theatre she is set on a path of proving her worth, not only to the Management, but herself and through the process learns the secrets of her past and the person she is going to become. Far more than a simple story though, Lisa creates a world that is visually acute. When I read the book I feel like I'm watching a play or movie; that I am Bertie in the thick of things, surrounded by miscreant fairies and caught between two very charismatic men. The story's vibrancy practically leaps from the page and using a device such as formatting flashbacks like a stage play is brilliant, not to mention completely original.
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