Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev had an absolutely captivating premise. A parentless teen ager with no idea of who her parents were or what her history was growing up in a magical theater, forced to become a heroine when threatened with the possibility of losing the only home she had ever known. I was sold at the magical theater but thrown in a few fairy friends and Shakespearian protagonists and, of course, I bought the book. A decision I can't say I regret, but one I'm not as ecstatic about as I was before reading it.
There is a lot going on in this book: the search for Bertie's (the main character's) background, the search for a kidnapped friend, Bertie's goal of gaining permission to stay in the theater and last but certainly not least the quest to save the theater. Each of these scenes are described beautifully--too beautifully to the point that actions get lost in descriptions and flourishing language gives way to no transitions. One scene turns to another with no reason or rhyme and the reader is left to try to make the leap. Many times you're just lost with no hope of coherency. It's a mess--often times a beautiful mess, but a jumbled mess all the same.
There are also many characters in this book, most of which have previously existed in plays. Bertie is the only original character. With the premise of the book and the situation the author uses them in, I have no problem with the borrowing of characters. The problem is that they are never developed. The author relies exclusively on the reader's prior knowledge of the plays the characters were taken from and the playwright's character development. Despite, overlooking an obvious opportunity to put some work in the characters and show sides that maybe haven't been seen before is the fact that not every reader will be familiar with all the plays characters are borrowed from and the author makes no attempt to fill that reader in. I think it's also an dis-justice to the characters as they are never developed as people.
Even Bertie, the protagonist, isn't well developed. She is sassy. Don't we love a sassy narrator? Well, it's really more bratty. She's often times sassy and rebellious without reason and we have no idea why, other than this is just how she is. It makes it hard to like her.
So why don't I regret spending my hard earned money on this? Well, because in the last 100 pages the author gained some sense of coherency and the story gained a decent pacing. In the last 100 pages, a rather interesting story unfolds and is told in such a way that it can actually be followed! Since this is a debut novel, I'm willing to cut it some slack and since the story did finally develop I may even read the sequel. Though, I remain uncertain.