I don’t want anyone to think this is a review because it’s not. It’s just my response, really. My response to something AWESOME!
This! This is what I am responding to: this magnificent book that drew me into its world before I was even aware I was being drawn.
The whole story plays out in one building—an enchanted theatre, to be exact—but it didn’t feel like one building. It felt like a labyrinthine super-building with oceans and stars and ancient history thrown in for laughs. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten addicted to a book. And by that I mean I felt the pull of the book even when I wasn’t reading it. Most often, I have to tell myself it’s time to read, and it takes a while for me to get back into the story. But in this case, I never left the story. I was always thinking about what was going on with the adorable fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, whether the pirate Nate was really as sweet as he seemed, and what the hell that rapscallion Ariel was up to.
Which brings me to the only part of the story that nicked me in a bad way: Ariel. (Don’t hate me, Lisa Mantchev!) The truth is Ariel was the key to my picking the book up as soon as I did. I knew I wanted to read it eventually. The idea of an enchanted theatre, in which all the characters in the world exist in the flesh, was just so irresistible. But I grew up loving Shakespeare—in particular The Tempest, which was always one of my favorite plays—and the character I clung to most was Ariel. So when I found out he would be playing a major role in these books, I about tripped over my own shoelaces trying to find the nearest copy of the first one.
But, as is often the case when an old character is reinterpreted, Mantchev’s Ariel was not the Ariel I fell in love with as a child; he was strong-willed, rebellious, slightly wicked, and arrogant; he was Caliban wearing Ariel’s pretty face and wielding Ariel’s powers. What I always loved about Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest was the way they became their own polar opposites. Caliban was powerless, ugly and unwanted, but he was a rebellious, strong-willed character. On the other hand Ariel, with all the powers of the storms and sea, was weak-willed, subservient, a slave in body and mind. He begged to be free, but he never fought for it. He groveled, even though he was just short of a demigod. I loved Ariel for that weakness because it made him human, but he did not have it in Eyes Like Stars.
That said, I know that Mantchev’s Ariel was not meant to be my interpretation of Ariel, but her own. And as soon as I realized my Ariel would not be making an appearance, I was able to let go of my expectations and just enjoy the story. Then I could appreciate Mantchev’s Ariel for the egotistical, seductive trouble-maker he was.
So if you have a chance to pick this book up, do it! If you have any familiarity with Shakespeare, you’re in for a fantastic show. Eye’s Like Stars let me spend some time in a delightful world, with a main character who could charm the pants off Ebenezer Scrooge, and a couple high quality love interests I’d be hard pressed to choose between.