I have been wishing and pining for this book for what seems like forever. When you are longing for a book and you finally get to read it there is always the danger that it won't live up to the expectations that all that waiting has created.
Drum roll please....
It was perfection. What an unusual book! So very unexpected and imaginative. I couldn't predict a second of the story, which is always a pleasant surprise. It felt as if she was writing as I was reading and it came together so seamlessly.
All the plays and all the players are bound within the theater, endlessly acting their parts and reciting their lines. With a word a scene can change and London can become the ocean, Peter Pan giving way to a pirate ship. Ever present and always on set is a large tome, The Complete Works of the Stage where all the entrance lines from every play are kept, the lines that first brought the players to the stage.
Bertie is a child of the theater but not one of it's players and she is not bound to the stage. She is an orphan brought up amidst the every changing sets. She lives in a world that can tailor itself to her imagination, where fairies are friends, pirates are dashing heros, water sprites are mischievous tricksters and anything you can think of can be recreated on the stage.
With so much fun at her disposal, Bertie's imagination run wild has landed her in danger of being forced to leave the theater. In order to stay she must prove that she can make a valuable contribution to the theater or she will have to return to the world outside, a place that players can not go. When one of the cast members is set on joining her in her departure, his actions threaten to release all the plays and players and bring down the theater and Bertie finds herself playing a much bigger role than she ever imagined.
Devoured this book in just a few hours from the moment I picked it up. It ended on a nice tidy note, preluding a sequel to squirm for.
I also had to give a little squeal when this turned out to be a story about the power of stories hinting, for me at least, pleasantly of Pratchett. I also found what I felt to be a hint of him during the play when we were learning about young Bertie but then maybe it's just that I chose to see a bit of him in everything.
Young Bertie looked up from her paper. "See this word? C-A-N-D-Y spells 'candy.' Maybe now you want to turn out your pockets?"
"Er, well," the Lead Brigand said, caught in his lie.
"Go ahead," she urged, "I double dare you."
The Brigands weren't about to ignore a double dare and they turned out their pockets. Approximately seventy-nine pounds of jelly beans, peppermint canes, and chocolate humbugs hit the stage in a rain of cellophane-wrapped sugar.
"Whoa, wait just a second." their leader started to protest. "Where did all this come from?"
"It's there because I wanted it to be there." Young Bertie explained. She held up her drawing. "See? I put the word on paper, so it's true. Would you like to see me spell 'avalanche?'
A good book hangover with a touch of glitter. Well worth the wait!