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Unfortunately, this is another example of a great concept ruined by bad storytelling Our protagonist and I use that lightly is Lucian, a boy with cancer who discovers he can travel to a different world a pseudo Venice as it were through the acquisition of a magical notebook However, this ability is never really the foundation of the plot instead, Miss Hoffman tends to write where the wind takes her, forming a mix match of elements that are never deeply explored, into a plot sequence whi Unfortunately, this is another example of a great concept ruined by bad storytelling Our protagonist and I use that lightly is Lucian, a boy with cancer who discovers he can travel to a different world a pseudo Venice as it were through the acquisition of a magical notebook However, this ability is never really the foundation of the plot instead, Miss Hoffman tends to write where the wind takes her, forming a mix match of elements that are never deeply explored, into a plot sequence which never links together The idea of Stravagation is lost two or three chapters in, and it takes any intrigue with it.The plot isn t terrible, just unrefined and unfocused The main problem that had me struggling to continue, was the lack of good pacing and tension Nothing binds this novel to a climax, the story just flits from moment to moment Lucian is taken as a mondolier , and then becomes an apprentice to a scientist , for no real reason regardless of the need for consistency, and forgets ideas as it runs Hoffman doesn t linger on anything and consequently, her characters are dull, her world is contradictory and her climax ineffective Characterisation is poor Lucian s illness acts as a cheap tactic to draw sympathy from the audience, and it doesn t work I never cared for any of the characters Their plights seemed childish, and without conditioning or backdrop, and they carry no depth or humanity Dialogue is forced and often only two or three lines long, so inter relations between characters is stagnant, and nearly always told as oppose to shown Lucian and Arianna are supposed to be in their mid teens, but I thought they were nine based on how they conversed.P.O.V switches every couple of pages, sometimes three times in one spread, to characters I had forgotten existed and who held no real ground in the story at all Again, Hoffman seems to take the story on a whim, just going where she wants to write about, and not bothering to fill the spaces left behind I never had a solid grounding on where I was, or who I was with It s a case of too many characters spoiling the broth some individuals only appeared twice in the whole plot, and yet I was supposed to empathize with their mind set I simply couldn t.Personally, the book bored me Nothing really happens Conflicts are almost always resolved a few pages after they appear, and no antagonist is involved We hear about the dreadful di Chimicii, but all they seem to want is a treaty signed which would unite Talia with a perfectly functioning republic I couldn t see anything sinister behind their actions Questions asked, like Why is Stravagation important, what s it s purpose are never answered I don t understand why Hoffman created a parallel world and didn t just use Renascence Italy for Lucian s escape There is a scene in which Lucian goes to the real modern day Italy and alludes to the differences between Bellazza and Venice, which I couldn t see Apart from butchering Italian words, nothing is really altered I feel the scene would have beenaffective if the protagonist had been contrasting contemporary and historical Italy, rather than an almost exact replica of it I suppose the author alludes to magic a couple of times, but again, she never explores what it is and how it is influential to her created world Talia is boring and childish, and contains no realism or logic.I think Hoffman underestimated her intended audience, is all Like I have said, the story isn t terrible, just misguided and too quick to get to it s end This is not a Y.A novel This is a children s book I could honestly see children between the ages of 9 12 enjoying the contents It s an easy read, designed for settling kids at bedtime, but anyone above that age group would probably be disappointed I certainly was Who knows, perhaps the realm is explored better as the series progresses, but I m not sure I ll ever find out This is a book from my childhood circa age 11 that I am so happy to have picked up again now I m not even really that interested in Italy, but I certainly dig the idea of inter dimensional space and time travel I m re reading all of the books in the Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman in accordance to the release of the newest sequel, City of Sercrets So far, I ve read City of Masks and I started City of Stars last night This is, as I recall, the best book in the series as of yet Lucien This is a book from my childhood circa age 11 that I am so happy to have picked up again now I m not even really that interested in Italy, but I certainly dig the idea of inter dimensional space and time travel I m re reading all of the books in the Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman in accordance to the release of the newest sequel, City of Sercrets So far, I ve read City of Masks and I started City of Stars last night This is, as I recall, the best book in the series as of yet Lucien Luciano is an extremely likable character, and the ending, I think, was perfect I cry every time I read this, which is pitiful because it is written for 12 year olds, but also not pitiful because you love the characters so much it doesn t even matter I wish the Duchessa actually existed, so then I could admire her beautiful clothing and scull her mandola through the winding canals of Bellezza, which is the 16th century alternate universe counterpart of Venice Along the lines of the Chrestomanci series, it takes the idea of a child s dream life and takes it to an extreme next level, filled with political intrigue, romance, magic also known as natural philosophy , and adventure Definitely a must even if you aren t still in middle school Charming and quick, this book transports you to a past that is almost absolutely better than reality, and entertains your imagination with lush description and with a plot as complex as the city of Bellezza itself Brava, Mary Hoffman 7.5 out of 10 This review on my blogLiving A Thousand Livesplease use Chrome Yandex browser or Android IOS to see the page otherwise, spoiler tags I use to make my post compact may not work Short Soundtrack Nilda Fernandez L invitation VenisePaul Cardall The TravelerLucas Vidal New Found LifeGenre AU, historical fantasy, teen ish YAStuff time travels, AU Italy, 16th century, cancerWOW world buildingPOV 3rd person, multiLove Geometry none and romance is quite 7.5 out of 10 This review on my blogLiving A Thousand Livesplease use Chrome Yandex browser or Android IOS to see the page otherwise, spoiler tags I use to make my post compact may not work Short Soundtrack Nilda Fernandez L invitation VenisePaul Cardall The TravelerLucas Vidal New Found LifeGenre AU, historical fantasy, teen ish YAStuff time travels, AU Italy, 16th century, cancerWOW world buildingPOV 3rd person, multiLove Geometry none and romance is quite non existentQuote CoreHow on earth was he going to fill the time in his world before nightfallIt s hard to write a review for this book now I remember why I didn t do it after the first read of City of Masks , the world created by Mary Hoffman is too rich for me to describe it fully And how can I tell you about the characters without spoiling some interesting details I ll try to give you a glimpse, some clues, a few notes, but believe me, you d better dive into Stravaganza s realm blindly.So, we have Talia which is an AU of our Renaissance Italy, only with some benefits And the biggest of all is magic which is called there science City of Masks will show you Bellezza AU Venice , a city floating on the water and ruled by a woman Duchessa Here you ll meet handsome mandoliers instead of gondoliers , visit nearby islands, witness traditional celebrations, learn about stravagation , and see how cunning di Chimichi a la Medici family are Stravagation is an ability to move between words and times in your sleep You need a token from the other side to be able to visit it Suchlike travelers are Stravaganti the plural of Stravagante There are a lot of nuances about this phenomenon, but the story would teach you everything step by step.Meet Lucien Mulholland He s a 15 year old British boy who s recovering from chemotherapy in our world One day his dad brings home a beautiful notebook for his son to write when he s too weak to speak When Lucien falls asleep with the gift in his hands he appears in Bellezza The problem is, the day on which Lucien or Luciano stravagates is the Forbidden Day for anyone who wasn t born on the main island outsiders violated the law will be burnt at the stake.Now let me introduce a young Talian girl Arianna Gasparini She s almost 16 and eager to become a mandolier which is almost impossible, cause only boys have this privileged Why almost You can pretend to be a boy after all That s what Arianna planed to do on the Forbidden Day the Day when the Duchessa chooses new pupils for the Scuola Mandoliera until she met a weird guy in a modern pajamas There arecharacters and POVs, like Rodolfo Rossi Stravagante, magician, the Duchessa s favorite and future mentor of Luciano and his brothers, the Duchessa herself always masked, always cunning and smart , Arianna s family a big one and not without secrets , William Dethridge the first Stravagante from our 16th century , di Chimici power hungry and slippery , plus people of Talia.The story, which would stitch together all the aforementioned guys, is fast paced and atmospheric It also deals with a sad topic Lucien has cancer in our world , but Mary doesn t push you, she doesn t try to play with your emotions, she just tells facts and your feelings are totally yours.The plot is complex, but has teen ish vibes I don t even know how to explain this thing you d see it yourself throughout the read There are cruel events and mature nuances, but the way everything wrap ups reminds me of fairytales endings.The romance is soooo subtle, you may miss it completely Arianna and Luciano s relationship isfriendship like than anything, but it s obvious that they like each other and has a future together.All in all, I highly recommend this series, cause it has an amazing world building and interesting setting those would expand with every next book.Stravaganza City of Masks 1 6 City of Stars 2 6 City of Flowers 3 6 City of Secrets 4 6 City of Ships 5 6 City of Swords 6 6 This year I m doing a Reading Challenge so I have 26 books with specific subjects that I need to read.Book 24 A book set somewhere you really want to visitIt s been long since a dream for me to visit Venice As a little girl I was always mesmerized by the beauty of its watery streets, colorful city scape and mosaics This wanderlust have not since diminish.City of Masks gave me an opportunity to visit not only Venice Italy but also its counter part Bellezza Talia The country of Talia i This year I m doing a Reading Challenge so I have 26 books with specific subjects that I need to read.Book 24 A book set somewhere you really want to visitIt s been long since a dream for me to visit Venice As a little girl I was always mesmerized by the beauty of its watery streets, colorful city scape and mosaics This wanderlust have not since diminish.City of Masks gave me an opportunity to visit not only Venice Italy but also its counter part Bellezza Talia The country of Talia is both like and unlike theItaly of this world It exists in a parallel dimensionand diverged hundreds of years ago from the Italywe know Hoffman paints a beautiful world full of realistic relics with just the slightest variation form our own world This makes the setting extremely believable I especially appreciated the part where Lucien visit the real Venice and points out the differences between this world and the parallel of Talia s Bellezza This is one of thoseguilty pleasurereads It leansto a Middle grade read than Young Adult, so it is a quick, fun read Even with the darker topics of cancer and death that is mixed with in I think if you sit still you ll be able to finish these books in one sitting.There was a few things that bugged me though The adults of Talia behaving like spoiled children, especially the Duchessa.The shocking ease with which death is dealt with, or rather not dealt with.And all the chapters ending in cliffhangers, it got really annoying But still, I own the whole Stravaganza series so I ll sneak in a book every now and then ( Ebook ) ☢ City of Masks ⚖ Lucien is seriously ill but his life is transformed when an old Italian notebook gives him the power to become a stravagante, a time traveller with access to th century Italy He wakes up in Bellezza Venice during carnival time and meets Arianna, a girl his own age who is disguised as a boy in the hope of being selected as one of the Duchessa s mandoliers Arianna gives Lucien her boy s clothing and he is selected as a mandolier himself, becoming a friend of fellow stravagante Rodolfo, the Duchessa s lover, and saving the Duchessa s life when she is threatened by an assassin hired by the powerful di Chimici family For state occasions the Duchessa uses her maid Giuliana as a body double but Guiliana commits the fatal mistake of revealing the secret to her fiance Enrico and a sequence of devastating consequences unravels Meanwhile Lucien has met the original stravagante, the Elizabethan alchemist William Dethridge, and he begins to understand that he may be called to follow in his footsteps DNF at 22%I was very excited to start this one because one of my all time favorite concepts is TIME TRAVEL There s nothing better than the fascination one gets when they find themselves in another place, in another time, be it in the future or in the past I love that sense of awe and wonder characters get in such books I think it s related to my love for both history and traveling, so you really can t blame me for the major excitement I had prior to reading this book And I guess that s why m DNF at 22%I was very excited to start this one because one of my all time favorite concepts is TIME TRAVEL There s nothing better than the fascination one gets when they find themselves in another place, in another time, be it in the future or in the past I love that sense of awe and wonder characters get in such books I think it s related to my love for both history and traveling, so you really can t blame me for the major excitement I had prior to reading this book And I guess that s why my disappointment was huge as well I couldn t even get past 25% of this novel.There s nothing wrong with the plot per se Lucien is a teenager stricken with cancer He can barely move and eat, and he has to have his dad read to him One day, his father gave him a rather peculiar book, with the instructions to write anything on it Then when he goes to sleep, he wakes up and finds himself in a strange place, and later finds out he traveled to a parallel universe akin to 15th 16th century Venice Could have been a really great story with lots of star crossed lovers potential, know what I mean Unfortunately, the writing really ruined it for me You know, I would let third person omniscient pass as long as it does it right I wouldn t mind as long as there is good pacing, but man, this was the most disjointed novel I ve ever read There was absolutely no build up and pacing We re given the POV of this character, then two paragraphs later, we jump to another character s POV from OUT OF NOWHERE, and then we jump back to another POV with an ongoing dialogue with no context given whatsoever It was bugging the hell out of me, but when it started having THREE POV changes in ONE PAGE, I lost it I can understand the POV of side characters, but random ones that don t contribute to the overall story, people whose existences I would forget later on Come the fuck on.The writing is very important to me It encourages me to read on It can have a tragic plot, and maybe even a ridiculous one, but if the writing is splendid, I would ALWAYS give it a chance and read it through But this Ugh If I were a cellphone and you opened an app called City of Masks, I d be drained out of battery in no time That s how much this book demotivated me This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here Rating 4 out of 5 stars maybe even 3.5 Wait, what Quite a low rating to be on an all time favourites list, I know I won t lie objectively this series may not be the best ever written Frankly, I am not even sure I am capable of judging them in that aspect I read these books together with my mother when I was probably 11 My mother was already very sick and the memories we spent taking turns reading pages to eachother are ones that I will treasure for life now that she is no longer with m Rating 4 out of 5 stars maybe even 3.5 Wait, what Quite a low rating to be on an all time favourites list, I know I won t lie objectively this series may not be the best ever written Frankly, I am not even sure I am capable of judging them in that aspect I read these books together with my mother when I was probably 11 My mother was already very sick and the memories we spent taking turns reading pages to eachother are ones that I will treasure for life now that she is no longer with me The Stravaganza series is displayed on my shelvesas a reminder of this memories than a testimony to the content of the books At the moment I don t plan on ever rereading them, neither do I go too far out of my way to recommend them to others They are very enjoyable, early 2000 YA fantasy novels about teens travelling to a parallel Italy The plot is quite interesting but nothing you haven t seen before, probably Nonetheless, the beautiful, atmospheric description of Venice and other Italian cities in the later books is already a good enough reason on its own to pick this one up Stravaganza was originally intended to be a trilogy, until 3books were added on later I personally recommend stopping after the original trilogy, as they go down hill from there in my opinion Again it s a very enjoyable first book in a series, but objectively I have read better ones For sentimental reasons, it just feels wrong to not include them on my favourites though Summary view spoiler Lucien Mulholland isn t what you d call a normal boy Despite becoming ill from a tumor and recovering from chemotherapy, Lucien s life was somewhat normal compared to the situation he finds himself in now For after being given a red and purple marbled notebook by his father as a gift, Lucien falls asleep only to dream of the floating city of Bellezza, where his adventures begin.Arianna may be the daughter of all Torrone, but her dreams lie in the beautiful city of Bel Summary view spoiler Lucien Mulholland isn t what you d call a normal boy Despite becoming ill from a tumor and recovering from chemotherapy, Lucien s life was somewhat normal compared to the situation he finds himself in now For after being given a red and purple marbled notebook by his father as a gift, Lucien falls asleep only to dream of the floating city of Bellezza, where his adventures begin.Arianna may be the daughter of all Torrone, but her dreams lie in the beautiful city of Belleza All the lagooners have gathered for the Duchessa s Marriage with the Sea, but in a world where ancient laws and rituals forbid foreigners to stay within the city after midnight, Arianna knows that what she plans is certain death What she didn t plan though, was that the appearance of a strange boy A boy who is noBellezan than she A boy who would change her life forever hide spoiler Review I bought this book on whim The cover just sort of popped out and said, Buy Me It didn t take me long to get caught up in the world of Bellezza, Talia Talia, based on our own Venice, Italy during the Renaissance, is a captivating place There is something so beautiful about the cities of Italy, which is why tourists still travel there, and this book manages to harness that wonder within its pages The first thing that drew me in was the tangibleness of the protagonist, Lucien While I ve never had to live through the horrible life of living with a tumor, I understand what it s like to feel helpless and utterly incapable of controlling your own future Lucien is the epitome of this, he can t even get out of bed Luckily for him, the book his father gives him transports to Bellezza But with it comes its own dangers, thrusting him and the reader into a world of adventure.Now, if you know anything about history, you know that all states, countries, and kingdoms have had to fight to conquer or maintain what they were In the world of Talia it is no different In a world where political intrigue, assassination attempts, and ancient laws were at the height of the citizen s life, the reader learns everything as it is revealed through Lucien s eyes In fact, despite the multiple viewpoints that the book is written from, Lucien is the reader s window to the world.Now if the adventure or beauty isn t enough to peak your interest, there is a tangled web of love and betrayal that weaves its way throughout the story Every character has their own motives and desires and is willing to do anything for them An example you say view spoiler Ok well here s just one Guido Parola Noble by birth, his family s fortune was squandered by his older brother, leaving him penniless with an ill father When the opportunity to make a load of silver came up he agreed, despite the service requiring him to assassinate his own Duchessa hide spoiler So, despite being labeled as young adult , I think there is enough here to make the books enjoyable for all ages In modern day London, Lucien Mulholland undergoes chemotherapy treatments due to the cancer plaguing his body, but when he falls asleep clutching a mysterious book his father has given him, he is transported, or stravagated, to an enchanting 16th century Venice like city called Bellezza, in the country Talia.Lucien can return only if he can get hold of the book again while thinking of Belleza In this colorful other world, rich with court intrigues and magic, he feels vibrantly alive, as oppos In modern day London, Lucien Mulholland undergoes chemotherapy treatments due to the cancer plaguing his body, but when he falls asleep clutching a mysterious book his father has given him, he is transported, or stravagated, to an enchanting 16th century Venice like city called Bellezza, in the country Talia.Lucien can return only if he can get hold of the book again while thinking of Belleza In this colorful other world, rich with court intrigues and magic, he feels vibrantly alive, as opposed to his pain ridden days back in England his hair has grown back and he eats with relish Bellezza is also where he, renamed as Luciano, meets lovely 15 year old Arianna and Rodolfo, who created the book that acts as Lucien s stravagation talisman Rodolfo explains that a stravagante is a wanderer between worlds, and also the history of this magical travel Now the secret brotherhood dedicated to keeping the two worlds separate is being challenged by a faction with evil intent Lucien finds himself swept up in the political undercurrent of the city, whose people and mysterious Duchessa are working with all their might to keep free from the clutches of the Chimici family Soon Luciano learns there is a cost when one cannot stravagate properly Thehe travels to this extraordinary city, thehe seems to vanish from his own world and his family Will Lucien continue to travel between the two worlds or will he be stuck in a world that he barely knows forever Book Details Title Stravaganza City Of MasksAuthor Mary HoffmanReviewed By Purplycookie recently re read this series for the hundredth or so time, and once again the story did not fail to draw me in Original, fascinating, exciting love it.