My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed Beatrice "Bertie" Shakespeare Smith's story. Bertie has lived most of her life inside the Theatre Illuminata which is a magical place to be. However, not everyone is happy she's there. The Stage Manager pretty much wants her gone while the Propery, Costume and Theatre Manager are sympathetic to her. THe Theatre Manager has final say in these things and Mrs. Edith, the costume manager, has more or less raised Bertie.
Bertie, and her Midsummer's Night Dream fairy friends (I noticed a lot of people whinging about the fairies. I'm not sure they got the Shakespeare reference), spend their days getting into trouble. In fact, Peaseblossom (the only female fairy, the other two being of course Cobweb Mote and Mustardseed) seems to be Bertie's only female friend, except maybe Ophelia who is a little creepy what with the drowning every night. Naturally there are two young men in Bertie's life (because love triangle seem mandatory in YA these days). Nate, the pirate with just one line, and Ariel the air spirit from The Tempest, who has darker secrets.
However, Bertie's last stunt went one step too far. She has to contribute something important to the theatre or she must leave and she has a week to do it. Bertie decides to be The Director, a position never needed before because the Players all know their unchanging roles. She's going to restage Hamlet in Egypt.
Things don't go as planned. For one, as the Theatre Manager warned her, things could CHANGE. The Players aren't cooperative. They find the new staging so unsettling they can't remember lines for the first time ever. Worse, even Ariel doesn't want her to succeed. He wants her to go outside the theatre, something the Players can NOT do and even uses her desire to find her mother who left her on the steps of the theatre to get her to give up and go. He believes she can take him with her.
Bertie does want to know her history. She's been writing a stage play about it. however, she doesn't want to leave the theatre. Nate tries to help her. he gives her a powerful medallion made from the bones of the sea goddess Sedna to protect her. It allows Bertie to see things as they truly are. The caveat is she can't let salt water touch it. You can see where this might be going.
For you see the one thing that can ruin the Theatre is if someone could leave the theatre (a Player, not Beatrice who isn't truly one of them) and the Theatre Manager reluctantly confides it has happened once before.
Bertie stumbles on who and the how but that knowledge nearly destroys the Theatre. Ariel does something big and Bertie has to undo all the damage she has inadvertantly caused but she pays a high cost. Someone will be torn from her.
The story wraps up nicely and sets up book two. I did like this a lot. I will admit it gets a bit saggy in the middle. I might have rated this even higher but there were a few quibbles. For one, if I hadn't read the back blurb, I might not have twigged onto what was going on in the beginning and that seems like an awkward way to do that. Also the last third seems very rushed. That really big thing Ariel does seems oddly flat emotionally and Bertie forgives himi a bit too easily (but it was the only way to achieve something that had to happen but still).
I'll have to go looking for book two.
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