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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Perchance to Dream: Théâtre Illuminata, Act 2 (ARC) by Lisa Mantchev

Title: Perchance to Dream: Théâtre Illuminata, Act 2 (ARC)
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Reviewed Format: Advance Reading Copy
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Pages: 352

Forgive me if this review isn’t as clear, eloquent, or cohesive as I’d like. I have a cold and am having a little trouble concentrating.

Also: there are no spoilers in this review.

Eyes Like Stars left readers at the mercy of a crossroad--which would Bertie chose: Nate, the salted and sun-bronzed pirate from The Little Mermaid, or Ariel, the mysterious and alluring wind spirit from The Tempest?  With Nate kidnapped and taken to Sedna’s lair deep under imaginatively dark and murky waters, Bertie, encouraged by his return to the Théâtre Illuminata, takes Ariel and her fairy friends with her on a caravan ride to The Outside to rescue Nate.  The question remains: will she fall for Ariel along the journey and forget about Nate or will she do the impossible and rescue her beloved pirate from a place where only the dead live?

You may remember, I wasn’t too keen on the romance between Ariel and Bertie.  She should, I thought, be with Nate.  He never manipulated her; he’s steady where Ariel is mercurial; dreamy and burly instead of elusive and dependent on magical charms.  It’s undeniable that both stand at opposing sides, polar opposites that war for Bertie’s attention.   The two were largely a most welcome distraction while Bertie began her search for her real parents and ultimately became entangled in what has always been Bertie’s story.

The romance is only one part of Perchance to Dream.  Lest we forget Bertie’s other mission--to discover her father and bring him back to Ophelia--Mantchev introduces a dark and mysterious figure with a haunting past and secrets buried beneath a curious façade.  Romance and revelations aside, Perchance to Dream delivers everything else you’ve come to expect from pastry connoisseur Lisa Mantchev and--dare it be possible--even more.  The fairies were, as always, charmingly obsessed with their stomachs, but who can blame them?  Like its predecessor, Perchance to Dream is a glittering explosion of pastries and color, magic, an impressive array of ornamental finery, costumes, stage sets, extraordinary periphery characters, and food.  Did I mention the food?  I never thought a generous reminder every now and then of dessert or dinner would actually make me hungry, but it did--and I’m not too big on the sweets.  I even went out and bought a glazed donut to celebrate (I kid you not)!

The fairies aren’t the only comedic relief.  The tension between Ariel and Nate makes for testosterone fueled jabs and egotistical quips at each other’s expense.  The boys lose their usual composure as often as they try to save face in front of Bertie.  Nate snarls; Ariel sweats.  Perchance to Dream is worth the read, if only in part to watch the boys split themselves into equal parts sweetness and seduction, envy and brooding.  Although Nate is still my favorite, Ariel makes a fine contender.  Before I go on I must tell you that Bertie does makes a decision that answers the burning question: Nate or Ariel?  No, I’m not going to reveal the answer.  You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

In addition to the goodies we’ve come to expect, Mantchev outdoes herself with richly imaginative scenes so vivid and abstract it’s impossible to rely solely on her descriptions to take you far away into another dimension--a little imaginative thinking on the part of the reader is sometimes necessary.  It’s these scene, I’m afraid, that may turn more reluctant readers away.  Bertie’s dream-sequence-realities and scrimshaw-induced visions clash against the vividly chaotic Caravanserai into an almost overwhelming display of ideas and visual stimulation.  It might be too overwhelming, too much stimulation for a reader that may stumble in the landscape Mantchev fills with troupes and troubadours, gilded cages, feathered ladies, enchanted gardens, and layered realities.

For those that brave the adventure, there might be something that, if possible, heightens the experience.  I don’t usually recommend music to accompany a text; people have such different tastes that any one song or album could ruin the atmosphere created by the author.  In the spirit of Bertie’s adventure, I think it’s pretty safe and following the magical and haunting spirit of the scene to recommend Loreena McKennitt’s “Caravanserai” while reading that particular chapter.  The music is as achingly beautiful as the drama, as enchanting as the scenery, and lingers with echoes of desire and bittersweet memories.  It complements Mantchev’s lush descriptions well, I think, without detracting from the emotion and beauty of the scene.

As beautiful and imaginative as most of the book is, there is also a dark side lurking around the last 100 pages involving swords, seawater, and sojourns into the wickedly possessive--courtesy of Sedna’s cruel manipulations.  I could go into detail, but I won’t.  Bertie proves herself to be a courageous protagonist.  Her confidence grows throughout the story as she becomes comfortable asserting herself--asserting her story. She forges her own path, claiming the future she wants and pursuing what’s become important in her life.  Perchance to Dream is the next evolution in Bertie’s life: some areas become clear, others are left messy.  Life is never easy and it’s not always black and white, but Bertie bravely faces everything surrounded by good friends and tasty delicacies.  She’s well nourished.

I feel lucky that Lisa Mantchev was gracious enough to pass my information on to her publisher so I could read this ARC before the official summer release.  Both Perchance to Dream and Eyes Like Stars were a lot of fun--especially because they’re loaded with random (contextually appropriate) quotes and references from Shakespeare’s plays.  It’s an extra perk that you can test your knowledge to see which lines are from what plays, said by whom.  I only recommend that you not read this while on cold medication.  Mantchev’s prose is already so whimsical you might start hallucinating nonexistent performers and exaggerated interpretations.  Otherwise, you should be fine.

Thank you Lisa Mantchev and the lovely folks at Feiwel & Friends!


How many Jawas recommend this book?

4 comments:

TJ said...

I've been tossing around the idea of reading Eyes Like Stars for awhile, but like many books, lost sight of it...

calico-reaction said...

I'm not reading the review because I want to be completely surprised about EVERYTHING!!!

But I have to say, I AM SO JEALOUS!!!

Erika said...

@TJ: The TBR pile is endless, is it not? ;)

Erika said...

@calico-reaction: I don't blame you! I get the same way, especially when I'm getting ready to read the book being reviewed.

Also: I am luxuriating in my luck. ^_^

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