This book is set at the Theatre Illuminata (isn't that the most wonderful name...happy sigh) and tells the story of Betrice Shakespeare Smith, or as most people know her, Bertie. For as long as she can remember Bertie has lived in the theatre, but this isn't just any theatre, this is a magic theatre (though I would argue ANY theatre is magic). In this theatre all of the characters from any play ever written
are actual living, breathing beings and the plays that are put on are not by actors but the characters
themselves. Bertie is the only member of the theatre who is not a character from a play, but this does not stop her from having many many friends within the theatre. The centerpiece of this magical theatre is The Book, which contains any and every play ever written, this is also the source of the theatre and all the characters. Bertie is informed by the Theatre Manager that she will be forced to leave if she does not find some way to make herself an integral part of the theatre. Bertie decides to re stage one of Shakespeare's great plays Hamlet, but place it in Ancient Egypt. If Bertie can pull of a successful show she will be considered a Director (the first in the theatre, because usually the characters do not need to be directed, they just do their thing.) Throughout all this Bertie is being wooed by Nate, a pirate from the play A Little Mermaid, and seduced by the wild and mysterious Ariel
from The Tempest. Ok I have to stop right here and admit I am a little bit in love with this version of Ariel, he is fey, dangerous, roguish and oh so mysterious, he has that pull that all of us geek girls can't resist...Ok girly moment over, moving on. This love triangle is a tad more seductive then I thought to find in a novel like this, but it was all in theatrical tradition. Near the end the play gets put on, but with a twist that Bertie was not expecting. I have to say, it took me a page or two to catch on to what was going on, but when I figured it out it was pretty cool, I won't spoil it for you, but it explains Berties origins beautifully. After this major revelation Bertie sets out to further her quest and Ariel finds a way to go with her, oh yeah and somehow Nate got disappeared by a Sea Witch so that is part of her quest is to find him again.
I really loved 99.9% of this book, it combined so much of what I love and used magic to tie it all together. I love books that are set in a world that does not have to follow the real world rules, it makes it much easier to suspend belief and just dive right into the middle of the world (it also gives me a chance to say world like 19 times in one sentence). The descriptions were beautiful without being over the top, there were pieces of dialog that were written as script which made me very happy, but the style was used sparingly so it didn't get annoying. The love story was theatrical and melodramatic just like any good play, and like I said earlier I want to carve my initials in a tree with Ariel's. The only major problem I really had with this book is when I picked it up I did not realize it was going to be a series. The book had a beginning, middle, and fairly wrapped up end, the story was amazing, the setting magical and then BAM the last couple pages opens everything back up again. I have not had a chance to read the second one yet, mostly 'cause I'm scared it can not live up to the first book, on the other hand even if it sucks the first one holds up as a standalone story so I will always have that to hold on to. Over all I give this book 8 out of 10 standing ovations and strongly encourage anybody with a theatre, literature, or Shakespearean background to get there hands on this book. If you just really like a magical world and awesome quirky characters you should also read this.
What books combine your loves? Who do you prefer the Dashing, Heroic, Kind, Solid Pirate Nate, or the Wild, Arrogant, Self-Serving, Mysterious Spirit Ariel? Are you ever disappointed when a book is a series?