Lisa Mantchev’s Théâtre Illuminata trilogy breathes new life in the complete works of the stage. Characters we are familiar with from our school days of reading plays in English class light up and take on brand new yet somehow fitting personalities. Our heroine, a brand new life in this world of tired routine, likes to shake things up. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith knows only The Théâtre, the fairies that are her ever-hungry companions, and the players that come and go when called for a production.
Change is not appreciated at the The Théâtre, and the Theater Manager makes sure Bertie knows it. Her constant troublemaking is a huge problem, and the only solution is to send her packing. With the help of the Midsummer Night’s fairies and a handsome pirate from The Little Mermaid named Nate, Bertie must figure out a way to become invaluable to The Théâtre. What else can a girl bent on change do but enforce that change on others? She is to become The Théâtre’s first ever director.
There is still the mystery of exactly where Bertie came from and who her parents are, not to mention the dangerously handsome air spirit from The Tempest consumed by the belief that Bertie can free him from The Théâtre. Bertie has a lot to handle and the necessary spirit to pull it all off.
Lisa Mantchev’s portrayal of these familiar characters is absolutely delightful. They are comforting faces that remind us of when we originally read these plays or when we first saw them come to life on stage. There is just the right amount of magic, the kind that you only find on the stage. Suspension of disbelief, a world where it’s possible to fly, and the settings are just as alive as the players themselves. The story comes alive in your hands as you read. Bertie’s personal journey is fraught with confusion. This is a coming of age tale where the heroine must decide whether growing up is to be of use to her childhood home, or to go out in the great wide somewhere, searching for parents she never knew.
Mantchev’s style is fun, exciting, and full of little details you would not expect to matter. Her characters are true to their origins as well as their role in Bertie’s story. She is a master of manipulating old standbys into something new. Eyes Like Stars, Perchance to Dream, and So Silver Bright complement each other wonderfully. If you are looking for a fantastic adventure, then I highly recommend these titles.