Written by: Lisa Mantchev
Pages: 333 (Hardcover)
Series: Book Two (ongoing)
I loved Eyes Like Stars. I found it a delight to read and one of the more original stories I'd read in a while. To say I was looking forward to the sequel, Perchance to Dream, is an understatement. But with expectation comes a certain amount of fear. I was offered an ARC to borrow before the release date, and I passed because 1) I really did have a LOT to read between that point and the release date of the book, so I knew I wouldn't get around to it in a timely manner and 2) I was kind of afraid to read it. That's what happens sometimes. Your expectations are so high that you really want and need to temper them before diving into a sequel, otherwise you could be faced with a crushing disappointment (I still haven't read Kristin Cashore's Fire yet, for this very reason). But with that said, I realized I had a perfect chance over the weekend to get this under my belt, so read it I did. The experience was, . . . well . . . odd.
The premise: ganked from the author's website: Beatrice Shakespeare Smith's search for her stolen companion has brought her travelling company far from the stage of the Théâtre Illuminata. With the power of her words, Bertie can reshape reality, but the magic is wild and defies her attempts to control it. The Pirate's time is running out and Sea Goddess will not give up her prize willingly.
Review style: I want to talk about the relationship of this book to the first, so let me just warn you now, SPOILERS for both books. I also want to talk about the very interesting way Mantchev is handling her love triangle, and also explain why, as jawastew has said, a person should NOT read this while under the influence of cold medicine. Not that I was under that influence, but if I HAD been, this would've been unbearable, and that's what I want to explain. So again, SPOILERS, so if those scare you, skip down to the "My Rating" portion of the review and you'll be fine.
Perchance to Dream picks up right where Eyes Like Stars left off. Literally. And I haven't looked at Eyes Like Stars since August 22, 2009. Obviously, I've slept since then, and furthermore, I've read LOTS of books. It's not that I didn't remember what happened in that book, but I didn't have any transition to ease me into the world, nothing to reacquaint me with the setting and the world-building. We get fairies discussing pie, which is excellent (and an excellent reminder since i'd forgotten the fairies think with their stomachs), but in terms of settling myself into the world? Not so much. I get hit with thing after thing after thing and I kept wanting to throw my hands up and yell, "SLOW DOWN! Could we at least get in Bertie's head a little bit more? Please?"
And it's not that I resent books that drop you into the middle of the action and leave you swimming. But I do resent getting dropped into the middle of the action and while I'm attempting to swim, the author starts dropping other things on top of me, and thus disabling me from being able to swim in the first place.
And I don't mind action and a fast pace. That's generally a good thing. But while in Eyes Like Stars, it took me a bit to get my bearings and understand the rules that governed the theatre, I never did get my bearings here. Ever. My head felt like it was swimming while reading this book, and I wasn't even partaking of the cold medicine!
Part of the problem is the very nature of reality. In the theatre, I get that Bertie's use of words controls the very actions of the stage, but taking the famous quote "All the world's a stage" literally made my head hurt. Suddenly I had no rules, and while I appreciated that every attempt Bertie made didn't usually work the way she wanted, I didn't have anything to hold on to. Even the real-world references threw me out of the book, as I kind of pictured Bertie's world outside of the theatre as something not really related to our own, despite having the same literature. Stupid assumption on my part, but the theater's so magical that it was jarring to hear real-world references outside of it.
It gets worse as Bertie's imagination bleeds into reality. I was never sure if we were getting carried away with metaphor or what, and I learn later that Bertie's magic is LITERALLY bleeding into reality, so what she imagines starts becoming real. Again, this book is not to be read while under the influence of cold medicine. I start getting dizzy just thinking about it.
The story swims by without a whole lot of effort though, and Mantchev does redeem this surreal, roller-coaster ride of a book by the end. Not just with the constant amusements of the fairies, but with Bertie's decision (rather, lack thereof) regarding Nate and Ariel.
To be honest, I'm on neither team at this point. Both have their plusses and both have their minuses, but I don't get the impression that either is Bertie's One True Love, nor do I feel like she'll be sacrificing much of anything no matter which choice she makes. Both men trick her into marriage, and both men forget to see her as her own person and rather see her as an object to be possessed. And here's what great about that: Bertie realizes this!. In the end, we learn she can't make a choice because she loves both equally, and she's awakening to the reality that she can't let either man define her path in life. One's water and one's air: Bertie's the one who's got to stay grounded, and I've got to say: I love that message.
But how far is Mantchev going to take it? Me, I'd like to see a completely NEW love interest, someone who's got Bertie's best interests at heart and sees her for who she is. I'd love to see her pick someone other than Ariel and Nate, because I don't feel either man has truly earned her affections. Nate for truly tricking her into marriage, and Ariel for that snit-fit where he stole the scrimshaw, which was struck me as unbelievably wrong and cruel. Sure, that's in his nature, but he was okay until that point, and the about-face reminded me that Ariel would never make a good partner for Bertie, because the moment she does something he doesn't agree with, he's not afraid to do something cruel to get back at her. We're not talking about losing one's temper. We're talking cruelty. Sure, I guess between the two, Nate's the better choice, but I'm still not wholly on board with him. Har-har.
So I like that Bertie is on the road to becoming her own woman. That's an excellent development, one I hope isn't lost if/when the triangle is resolved. I still wonder about Nate's page being in such easy reach for the Sea Witch, and I suspect Ariel may have something to do with that.
I was, however, wrong about one major theory from the last book: the nature of Bertie's father. I thought it was the Stage Manager, and boy was I wrong.
And honestly, that's part of what had me so off-balance while reading. Not that my precious theory was wrong, but that the answer was so out of left field that it felt anti-climatic. I'm still not fully able to digest the Scrimshander's history and tale. Honestly, I don't think I'll be able to until I make the time to re-read the book, which won't be any time soon, as this is something I'd rather re-read once the series is over and done with and I know where it's going. I did look up Sedna's myth to acquaint myself with the variations of her myth, so I appreciate that Mantchev is picking and choosing, but I still need time to process the whole thing.
Another thing that kept flying past me: most of the Shakespearean references. I was in good shape with the first book as I recognized most. Not so much here. Of course, my study of Shakespeare is anything BUT complete, but I was more aware of my lack this time around. That's less a criticism than an observation.
Worth the Cash: but rather close to "Buy the Paperback," and that's because this book picks up right where Eyes Like Stars left off and never once gives readers a chance to breathe and get themselves reacquainted with the world. And it's surreal to the point that keeping a grip on reality and the rules of the world became impossible. Lord knows I don't mind fast reads, and I don't need hard and fast rules governing everything I read, but I need some kind of frame work to hold on to, and Mantchev blew all such framework out of the water. Bertie's magic comes close to being too convenient, despite the fact she screws it more often than not. That said, the line between reality, imagination, and magic is so blurry that like jawastew, I don't recommend this if you're under the influence of cold medicine. Nor do I recommend reading this if you don't have the time to sit down and focus on it. Don't get me wrong, there's stuff to enjoy here: there's playful, delightful moments with the fairies and the language itself, and I applaud Bertie's character growth in this book, especially in regards to the love triangle. I hope Mantchev keeps this direction, because I really want to see what comes of it.
And despite my inability to find something to hold on to in this book, I intend to read the next installment. For that matter, I'll probably re-read the whole series one day once it's complete (is a series or trilogy? Do we know?), but right now, this book remains a bit of a fuzzy mess in my head, and while I'm willing to take partial blame (especially since I had such high expectations), the book is still kind of crazy. I highly recommend Eyes Like Stars for it's fun and originality, and this book is worth the read to fans who really enjoyed the first. Just know, it doesn't sparkle quite as brightly.
Cover Commentary: This one grew on me. I loved the cover to Eyes Like Stars and it was one of the reasons I broke down to buy the book. This one doesn't stand out quite as much, but it really did grow on me, especially once I saw it in person. I do love the rendering of Ariel and I'm almost on Team Ariel just because he looks so pretty on this cover. Kudos for the ghosted Nate in the corner (whose look reminds me of a teenaged Jack Sparrow). It's a pretty cover. Just not as pretty as Eyes Like Stars, and that assessment kind of fits the stories too. :)
Next up: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin