Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stravaganza: City of Masks - Mary Hoffman

I'd heard about Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza: City of Masks but didn't really know anything about it. However, when I was wandering in the children's library on Saturday, I noticed it on the shelf and decided I would read it.

This tale is set in a parallel world, in the city of Bellezza, in the country of Talia. They correspond to 16th century Venice in Italy. The hero is Lucien, who in our world is suffering from brain cancer. His father gives him a marble-covered notebook to help him communicate when his throat hurts too much to speak after chemotherapy. This notebook is actually a talisman, planted in 21st century England by a Stravagante from Bellezza, and it is the means by which Lucien travels to the magical, yet dangerous, new world. He finds himself involved in political intrigue, including assassination attempts both foiled and successful, and makes several friends, including a 15 year old girl, Arianne, who wants nothing more than to be a mandolier (the Bellezzan equivalent of a gondolier). Belleza is evoked in incredible detail, the silks and velvets, the sensuousness of the food, and the elegance of the city and its waterways are all beautifully described. The world of Talia is unforgettably and convincingly real.

The story continues in two sequels, Stravaganza: City of Stars and Stravaganza: City of Flowers, although they feature new protagonists. you can find out more about the books at the Stravanganza website, but don't bother following any of the links mentioned in the book itself (about William Dethridge, the first ever Stravagante) as they're all fake - which I personally think is wrong; Mary Hoffman shouldn't have given the full links that Lucien uses to access information on Dethridge if they're not real, because it's too misleading whether the reader is 15 or 50.


Anonymous said...

thanks soooo much i've been looking for it for ages, i figured that as the site on venice was real that the one on him was real too, but i haven't found any on the real william deathridge. thanks anyway.

Michele said...

You're welcome. I noticed that the link for Dethridge had disappeared from the dustjacket of the third book by the time it came out. Presumably readers had complained to the publishers...