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City of Masks (Stravaganza) [Hardcover]

Mary Hoffman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Sep 2002 Stravaganza
'City of Masks is a poignant, touching and exciting novel, difficult to put down. This is one of the best time-slip stories that I have read in recent years. Without doubt a masterwork of contemporary children's literature.' - Edgardo Zaghini, Children's Literature Officer, Booktrust. This is a fantastic first novel in a trilogy. Set in a parallel world, in an Italy that in this world is called Talia and in a Venice that in this world is called Bellezza, the narrative follows Lucien, who in this world is ill with cancer. Given a marbled notebook to help him communicate when his throat hurts too much to speak, this notebook is the means that transports Lucien to this magical, dangerous new world. This is a world which is set in the C16, and thrills to the delight of political intrigue, including assassination attempts both foiled and successful. The parallel Venice is astonishingly evoked, with the silks and velvets, the sensuousness of the food and the elegance of the city and its waterways all beautifully and powerfully described. The world of Talia is unforgettably and convincingly real.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st edition (2 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747555338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747555339
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 523,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Mary Hoffman has in Stravaganza: City of Masks produced a fine, complex time-slip novel filled with a love, passion and intrigue that crosses boundaries between past and present with an undeniable eloquence and sophistication.

Lucien, a 21st century boy, is dying of cancer. As he drifts in and out of consciousness in his hospital bed during a particularly difficult course of treatment, he finds himself wandering the streets of Bellezza, a beautiful city similar to Venice and filled with riches and danger.

As he fights the disease that is eating away at his young life, becoming stronger at first, but then weakening as his cancer begins to take a serious hold, his new life in Bellezza becomes increasingly more real and he finds himself at the centre of an age old battle between good an evil on the streets of the city ruled by the mysterious Duchessa. In the midst of Lucien's confusion he encounters Arianna, a wilful girl intent on breaking all the rules. And as their friendship turns slowly to love, and their relationship becomes an integral part of Bellezza's complex history, Lucien realises that he may have no choice about whether to stay in the city, or return to his own life and the parents he adores.

Beautifully written and spilling over with rich, diverse images of an elegant, lush city bathed in history and tradition, Mary Hoffman cleverly switches between the harsh, clinical reality of Lucien's 21st century illness and the sumptuous views of an opulent culture languishing somewhere in time. Clever, alluring and with a moving and unexpected ending that will leave the satisfied reader breathless, this stunning book cries out for a sequel. Age 11-14.--Susan Harrison.


"This is gripping fare - loves found and lost, old scores settled, secrets created and revealed." -- The Scotsman, 19th October 2002

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First Sentence
Light streamed on to the Duchessa's satin bedcovers as her serving-woman flung open the shutters. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical masterpiece! 10 Sep 2003
By A Customer
Within the first ten minutes of opening this fantastic book's cover I was hooked! Every moment had me interested and Mary Hoffmans portrayal of the strangely familar town of 'Bellezza' is truly wonderful!
We first meet Lucien (one of the main characters) in his bed at home. He has cancer and, as a relatively modern issue, this shows us the stark contrast between his own world and that of sixteenth century 'Talia.'
Lucien is transported, whilst sleeping, to this beautiful and tangible world where he meets a native, by the name of Arianna.
I will say nothing more of the plot, but I would recommend anyone who loves adventure and fantasy to delve into this magical and intriguing world which Mary Hoffman has created!
It contains a terrific blend of intrigue, murder, romance and, of course, magic!
You won't want to stop reading!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very very good 19 Nov 2002
I really enjoy reading any type of fantasy, so when I saw this book at half price in a boookshop I thought I'd try it. I wasn't sure if it would be particularly good at first; I wasn't sure if the story line would appeaal to me.(I generally like books such as Tamora Pierce's and Robin McKinley's 'The Hero and the Crown-war books set in the past). However I found myself really getting into this story even though half of it is set in modern day Britain.
The book is about a teenage boy who is dying of cancer. When his father gives him a notepad to write things down on (some days he hasn't got the energy to speak) he finds himself travelling to Bellezza, while he is unconscious, a city very similar to Venice, whose ruler is a Duchessa rather than a Doge. There he meets a girl called Arianna who is determined to get the law changed so that girls can be gondoliers. Besides becoming very good friends with her, his name is changed to Luciano, and he also finds out that he is a Stravagante-a person who can travel between worlds-and is a very powerful magician. I won't say any more or I will ruin the story but there is a murder plot involved...
I did not give this book five stars because I don't think the character development is as good as it could be, and also, the storyline could have been slightly better, although it was very good. There was also not enough said about the relationship between Luciano and Arianna. However, if there are sequels, this may be sorted out. I would certainly recommend reading this book anyway-it is definitely worth your while.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read! 3 Oct 2006
Alternate worlds, likable personalities, dangerous adventures, and a captivating writing style. What more could one possible want from a children's fantasy book? Not much to be honest. I gave it 4 rather 5 stars because the one thing it doesn't have is an edge over other books in the same category. Although it is very good and most definitely worth reading, it is not very "new" or "refreshing" as far as children's fantasy goes.

P.S. The second and third book in the series are equally good!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stravaganza: city of masks 3 July 2006
This book entrances you with the mysterious first page. It was hard to put it down. I loved the way that the story was told, making it seem as if you were looking at the city. The characters are well thought about and so lifelike. Mary Hoffman leaves you waiting till the very end to see if the characters survive. There wasn't a dull moment at all. It was gripping, extraordinary and totally thrilling, if you love adventure and a tiny bit of tampered with history you have to read this book!!!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Talia Review 19 Jan 2005
I Think 'STRAVAGANZA City Of Masks' by Mary Hoffman is a brilliant adventure of a book. It was so spell binding it convinced me to by it's sequel, City Of Stars. I am only on the 6th chapter of City Of Stars but it is already impossible to put down. By searching the web I have found out there is another book in the STRAVAGANZA series which I am going to keep an eye out for.
City Of Masks is a wonderfull book that will keep you hanging on for more. I mean, what would you feel like being ill in bed one
minute, then the next an adventurus world of masksthat you have never seen or been to before? That is the situatition Lucien Mulholland found himself in.
How could he have got there?
Where is he?
Why is he there?
And most importantly : How will he get back home?
Join Lucien in his adventures to understand this strange, new and magical place.
GO on, read it!!!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stravaganza 20 Jan 2003
Lucien lives in London and has been restricted to his bed by a life threatening illness.
One day, when clutching a notebook given to him by his Dad, he falls asleep and is transported to a Venice-like city, 500 years ago. The countries and places are similar to those in 16th Century England with some differences in culture, history, technology and religion.
He discovers that he is a Stravagante - someone who can "teleport" from our world to theirs and vice-versa.
How will he cope in a strange country? How will he know how to get back to London, and when faced by death from risky escapades in an unknown world, how will he get back to his real home in London?
Belleza, the name for the alternate Venice, is full of treachery, murder and romance - and that's just the politics...
Mary Hoffman sculpts Belezza with the care and quality of a master craftsman down to each detail of ceremony and tradition. A thrilling read with unexpected twists throughout the book. This masterpiece rivals even Lord of the Rings in imagination and creation.
This book will thrill the current generation and many more to come.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
It's well written and quite imaginative. Read it before a few years again but found I enjoyed it more this time.
Published 5 days ago by Niamh Dorney
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book!
This is a fantastic story, well written, full of suspense and twists. You'll fall in love with all the characters.
Published 7 months ago by Sara Duncan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - for adults as well
I bought this for my daughter but I began to read it on the plane to vacation. I have to admit it is one of the best written historical fiction stories I have read recently. Read more
Published 23 months ago by G. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favourite books
I first read this book when I was 12 and I've been hooked ever since. Hoffman creates the fantasy universe in such a way that it makes you wish that you could Stravagate too and... Read more
Published on 3 Dec 2008 by Ms. M. Patel
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!!!
you have to love this!!

when i first started reading it i was 11 and i found it hard to get into (short attention span) but then a few months on i picked it up and found... Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2008 by K. Hanlon
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This is my favourite book of all time...
i've been trying to get my friends to read this book since its release in 2002 and urge you to do the same! Read more
Published on 21 May 2008 by Teresa Potts
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprise find worth finding
This was one of those books I picked up on the off chance and to be honest I'm very glad I did.

The story is focussed around Lucien, a teenage boy who finds himself... Read more
Published on 15 July 2007 by Random As Ever
5.0 out of 5 stars City of Masks
Lucien Mulholland is ill with cancer. The slightest thing tires him out and his throat hurts when he speaks. Read more
Published on 18 May 2006 by Trixy
5.0 out of 5 stars Stravaganza: City of Masks
When I read this book a few years ago, recommended to me by a friend, the book grabbed me immediately; just from looking at the cover! Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2005 by Lou
4.0 out of 5 stars A time travel adventure.
As an adult, I don't usually read teen books. I was looking for a fantasy style read for my son after he finished the latest Harry Potter. Read more
Published on 28 July 2005 by DubaiReader
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