All her world’s a stage.
Bertie 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.
That is, until now.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors 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.Well, I must say, wouldn't you think that a gorgeous cover? To be honest, it's what drew me to the book in the first place. There I was, innocently scrolling through Amazon, checking out recommendations, when out of nowhere, this gem of a cover grabbed hold of my eyes and forced me to click. And that's when the summary enticed me further. But I digress. Let's skip to the nitty gritty.
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is a strong, feisty female character--not teeth-grindingly feisty but a good mixture of vulnerability and strength all rolled into one. She's assertive; she swears, she smokes, and she's not afraid to use physical force if that's what it takes to get her point across. In my reading experience, she's also a pretty rare find. Throughout the book, you'll be wanting to follow her increasingly tangled, entertaining adventures--especially once you meet her trusty winged companions Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Moth and Cobweb, the fairies from a Midsummer Night's Dream. The banter these four exchange, their jokes and their quirky, bawdy sense of humour will make you crack a smile at the very least--or have you full-out chuckling (ask the people I've been sitting beside on the bus).
There's also plenty of inside jokes that people familiar with the old Bard will appreciate, as well as those with an insatiable appetite for theatre. Ms. Mantchev also manages to pile on impressive imagery ("They spoke in silk-hisses of the desperate need roiling under the surface of his skin, and their whispers stole the breath from her lungs") and clever wordplay. Not to mention the love triangle between Bertie, the dashing pirate Nate, from The Little Mermaid, and the provoking (in more ways than one) air spirit Ariel, from The Tempest. I haven't seen it before but the author manages not to lean a particular side; it's truly up to the reader to pick. I myself don't have anyone in mind, which is strange since I usually go crazy-all-or-nothing on a love interest in these types of books. Nevertheless, it makes for entertainment, and sends the plot cracking along.
The novel was also written in a lively pace; you'll never want to put the book down unless it's absolutely necessary. There was never a dull moment. It was just this insane romp throughout a fully realized magical world that I found wholly original. The humour came across as sparkling and natural; Ms. Mantchev writes with precise comic-timing and her fondness for the performing arts just spills over the page (in a good way). You never knew what was going to happen next; it came across as a perfectly improvised script. It was just that original.
In short, I loved it. The conclusion was satisfying but will still have you clamouring for the sequel. Absolutely delicious.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5