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review 2016-07-20 08:00
City of Swords
City of Swords - Mary Hoffman

As a kid I loved the first three books of the Stravaganza series. But as I grew older I felt it wasn't really a series that grows with you when I was reading the second trilogy. It took several years to finally finish the series.


It was a super fast read, I finished it within four hours of returning home from the library (and cooked in between as well!). I've always liked the series, but was a bit wary to read this last book. All books have followed the same kind of formula, and I've grown a bit tired of it. In this book they emphasize how much everything is the same for all of them, but it made me sigh. The story was interesting as ever, there is very little which can ruin a renaissance Italy setting for me. Expect lots of intrigues (fun!) and a lot of not so subtle explaining of the intrigues (not fun).


I do think that if I was twelve years old again and reading this complete series, I would have loved it from start to finish. But as it is, I've become way more critical of my reads than I was ten years ago and also it still really has the feel of a children's book over it.


Books I've also reviewed by Mary Hoffman:

City of Masks (Stravaganza #1)

City of Stars (Stravaganza #2)

City of Flowers (Stravaganza #3)

City of Secrets (Stravaganza #4)

City of Ships (Stravaganza #5)

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review 2014-06-30 10:57
Stravaganza - La città delle maschere
Stravaganza: La città delle maschere - Mary Hoffman

Lucien è un ragazzo malato di cancro, costretto a letto dalla malattia e dagli effetti della chemio. Il padre spesso distante inizia a parlare con lui di Venezia, una città sul mare e di cui Lucien si innamora. Una notte dopo essersi addormentato, si ritrova in quella che sembrerebbe Venezia, ma in realtà ha viaggiato per mondi e si trova a Bellezza in Talia(l'Italia del mondo parallelo).
Scoprirà che in Talia lui non è malato, ed ha ancora i sui capelli, che invece aveva perso nel suo mondo.
Conoscerà Arianna una giovane del posto durante la notte dello sposalizio della Duchessa con il mare, una festività la cui credenza popolare è che favorisca la prosperità delle acque.
Lucien viaggerà tutte le notti a Talia per vivere un'avventura fantastica assieme ad Arianna, a Rodolfo, il mago che li spiegherà di essere uno "Stravagante" colui che viaggia per mondi durante il sonno.
Un racconto per ragazzi che vuole dare una seconda possibilità ad un malato di rifarsi una vita in un nuovo mondo. Un pensiero che mi ha commosso e che da speranza. Una storia che consiglio a tutti di leggere almeno una volta nella propria vita.

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review 2014-03-09 22:02
'City of Masks' by Mary Hoffman
City of Masks - Mary Hoffman

Cute. That a the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this book. Cute and mostly harmless. Adorable and sweet, but unfortunately just not too memorable. Like a decent fast food meal, it's satisfying but not too nutritious.

This is a story of a teenage boy dying from cancer in contemporary England, who accidentally discovers a way to travel to an alternate reality that closely resembles medieval Venice. He makes friends with a powerful scientist-magician and a perky tomboy-girl, foils a few political intrigues and, as his life ebbs away in the real world, realizes that this alternate reality quickly is becoming more real than 'real' world.

It's a book that seems to be aimed at quite young readers, perhaps age 9 or 10. It's gentle and sweet, with simple plot and easy-to-follow hints of the predictable plot twists, with never-too-real dangers, relatively harmless villains and generally happy resolutions to conflicts. The depths that could have been explored - in characters as well as the plot - were left uncharted.

There were a few points where it could all have been taken to the next level, to the place that can arouse strong conflicting emotions and create necessary tension- but they were sweetly glossed over (for instance, Lucien's experience of loss and dying, addressing the pain of grief, the difficult choices Silvia makes, the introduction of some ambiguity into the events - there were such opportunities for making the shades of moral grayness more prominent and more memorable!). Alas, any possibility of moral upheaval and emotional effect were softened and made sweet and cute and very easily palatable, which I thought was a real missed opportunity.

It's overall a feel-good book, probably unlikely to cause deep discussions between children and their parents, probably unlikely to change any kid's perception of the world, probably a lovely read on the cold rainy day when kids have to stay inside (however, I'm probably thinking of those long-away days of my own childhood when there were no video games and TV programs were quite limited, and library books were the perfect go-to entertainment)

It's a lovely book to help pass some time before moving on to better, more challenging literature. It has no teeth, it doesn't bite, and that may be a good or a band thing, depending where you stand on the idea of literature in lives of young readers. At least it does pass for a decent bedtime story.

Not a bad read, but you may find it hard to remember much of it a few days later. Interesting enough to finish reading it, but not captivating enough to pick up the sequels. 3 stars.

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