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on 16 March 2016
As a 23 year old I still love this series. I started at just 12 (or thereabouts) and am still enjoying them. Maybe not as much as when I started the series, but they'll always hold a place in my heart.
It's an uplifting read about friendship, relationships and finding yourself and creates a world that you can transport yourself away to. Every time I read any of the Stravaganza books I am transported to this world of magic that Mary Hoffman has created

This book encompasses science fiction, history, magic and Italy. Some of my favourite things, all in one delightful read. If you’re expecting something complex and an antagonist who turns up at every corner, ready to thwart the protagonists plans with well thought out plans that leave you on the edge of your seat, then you will be disappointed, but if you just want a read that’s enjoyable, slightly different than the normal science fiction, and characters that you can really get behind, then this is it! The plot flows nicely, like I say, there is nothing too complex, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing?

The story constantly changes perspectives, telling the story from different character’s narratives, and it was great to be able to follow the thoughts and actions of characters who were not the main character but still intrinsic to the plot. It allows the reader to form bonds with characters that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

My main issue is that sometimes the conversation seems a little stilted and forced. This can make it a little bit difficult to relate to the characters, which in turn can make the characters seem a little emotionless with what could have been big moments for character development getting ‘glossed over’. However, don’t get me wrong when I say emotions were glossed over, there were still parts in the book that made even my hard heart shrivel with sadness [and well back up with joy]!

The book can be a little messy at times. I know I’ve said that I enjoy the changes in perspective and narrative but there were a few too often at times, for example – there’s three changes in narration within a two page spread. This again means that prime opportunities for character development are missed because before you get too into their thoughts and create a bond with them, you are chucked elsewhere so you don’t have the opportunity to really become involved with certain characters. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes it didn’t, which is why it is both a pro and con! There are way too many characters whose names begin with 'F' and were similar sounding, I actually completely lost track and ended up giving up and just rolling with it
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on 10 March 2010
City of Ships is the fifth book of the Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman. Isabel is the latest heroine to journey to Talia, another world's version of sixteenth century Italy. All the other Stravaganzas have been called there in order to save the day and it would seem she is destined to do the same. She arrives in the city of Classe, which is on the brink of war. The evil Di Chiminci family, who have been the enemy in past books, are seeking to assert their dominance over the last independent cities. To do so the Duke has made an alliance with the savage Gate people who will attack the allied cities of Classe and Bellaza by sea. Isabel arrives as the two prepare their fleets before the invasion. As yet she does not know what role she will play but she knows that, like Stravaganzas before her, a time will come when she is faced with a decision that will change the course of the war. Until that time she can sink into this new life where during the day she's at home or school but when night comes and she's asleep she will travel back into the renaissance where adventure awaits.

In many ways this is very similar to the high school story genre, where a young woman turns from a geeky, lonely girl into a popular, happy and confident student. On the other hand, there is a serious diversion from the genre here as the transformation is due to the double life she leads in another world and safely avoids the banality of many of the other coming of age books. City of Ships will nevertheless still appeal to female readers with its succession of handsome boys and romance budding between many of the characters. If you're looking for plenty of action this will probably not be the book for you as the author dwells on character growth rather than on a rapid pace. As it is the final battle comes as a necessary climax to the plot but it is by no means the driving force behind the tale.

Instead Mary Hoffman has written about a teenage girl who is beset by very low self-esteem. She needs this new world in order to come out of her shell and develop into the person she could be. There is, of course, a love interest with a previous character and many of the worlds inhabitants and past heroes will also have a developing love life to the gratification of old fans.
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on 16 March 2010
What can I say, the City of Ships is as amazing as all the Stravaganza books - if you haven't read them yet do - but read them in order if you can, as the same characters keep appearing in each book - which means you get to know and like them even more with each book.
The country of Talia is just as, if not more, beautiful as our Italy - I wish I could go there.
I knew the cities of the previous books, but have never been to either Ravenna or Classe - now I feel I don't need to, as Mary Hoffman has brought them to life in a quite incredible way. Her ability to merge past and present is quite marvellous, and her understanding of teenagers of today is amazing - wonderful books for all ages.
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on 21 April 2010
Mary Hoffman has done it again with her usual style. I was immediately hooked by the plot, and fell in love with the new characters. I was really happy that all the old characters still featured though because I was worried that this far along in a series some might just get dropped. :D I was wrong. City of Ships had me on the edge of my seat as every twist brought the Stravaganti and Co. closer and closer to loosing their lives...Read on for a battle to rival the one in City of Flowers!

Just right. Light, enagaging and thrilling. I would recommend it to anyone, and a great deal through amazon.
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on 2 January 2016
again, i love this entire series. they do seem to get steadily darker as it continues though. theres a fairly gritty sea battle in this one which borders on the gory. i love them though, great adventure novels
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on 10 March 2014
Just when I thought Mary Hoffman had covered all original ideas for the Stravaganza series, ‘City of Ships’ brought a fresh and interesting plot that I really enjoyed. This time set in a coastal town featuring pirates and a pending attack, ‘City of Ships’ felt more of a unique story compared to the rest in the series. I can’t guarantee this review won’t contain any plot spoilers, so if you are reading this without having read the earlier books in the series, then I definitely recommend that you check out my other reviews, for Mary Hoffman.

The town of Classe felt different to the rest of the cities in Talia and this might be because of the pirates and sea-faring espionage. The pace seemed to move a lot quicker and there was always the sense of impending danger to what appears quite a vulnerable province. I enjoyed the battle scenes on the sea because it was so different to the previous duals and sword fights in Talia but, admittedly, I did find it difficult to keep track of which ship was on which side.

Another refreshing part to this story is how the talismans have evolved. The present day Stravagante work more as a team and want to help their newest recruit, Isabel, understand as much as possible about Talia. Indeed, Hoffman throws a few surprises in along the way and whilst I don’t want to ruin it the for other people, I have to stay it made the book just that even more fantastical and enjoyable. I enjoyed the freedom that the Stravagante seem to have and the unpredictability of the journeys means that I just cannot predict how the sixth (and final?) instalment will develop.

I’m relieved that ‘City of Ships’ had more of a unique plot as I always feel that a long series is in danger of becoming repetitive. Instead, this was exciting and unpredictable, both for scenes set in England and Talia. I have enjoyed how this series has developed and certainly felt that this is more of a stronger plot than some of the others. Time travel meets war and tension, this book is a great read.
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on 25 June 2010
In the fifth installment of the Stravaganza series, we meet Isabel Evans, a young girl with a love of Art in particular mosaics, so it comes as no surprise that her talisman is a small bag of silver tesserae. The journey begins with the quick action expected in Talia, with the usual undertones of aggression from the Di Chimici family, and it is not long before Isabel is a practicing Stravangte with all the complications of her life in Talia, spilling into her life in 21st Century England. Mary has a knack of exploring teenager's dreams and jealousies with ease - the confrontation of a new set of friends for Isabel, and secrets she cannot discuss with her best friend! Talia/Italy is described beautifully once more and Mary's evident love of the country is demonstrated so perfectly I feel I could not bear to visit Italy in case it does not live up to what I have read in her books!
There may be a spoiler for a potential next book (I hope so!!!!) somewhere in the pages, but I'll leave you to find that. Everyone you would want is here in the book, the loveable Rodolfo, the handsome Lucien, Georgia, Sky, Matt, but its never complicated, and it is all executed beautifully. There's an amazong revelation about Stravagation in the book and if that is not enough - there's Pirates too! Real ones!
There is one thing I would seriously recommend first though. If you are reading these books to your children, read it yourself first because you will soon loose yourself in the book. I devoured it completely in one day!
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on 3 June 2011
This is the fifth of a series of fantasies about twentieth-century London teenagers, translated to a parallel world in 16th century 'Talia' (Italy). Adventurous and imaginative at first, the series may now be running out of steam: or I may have read them in too short a time; nevertheless, worth reading.
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Isabel is about to join a secret club called the Stravaganti. The Stravaganti are a group of high school students in London who travel back in time to a place similar to Italy.

Each student has a talisman, or an object that the student must hold while sleeping to travel back in time. But this time travel isn't a mysterious vacation - each Stravaganti is called for a certain reason.

This time Isabel is called to Classe, the City of Ships. The city is about to have a sea invasion by the Gate People, and the city must prepare for war. Isabel, with the help of the other Stravaganti, must help save the city before it falls into ruin.

Mary Hoffman adds a great addition to the STRAVAGANZA series with CITY OF SHIPS. The story is full of twists and turns that keeps the reader enchanted throughout the entire process. This book is highly recommended for anyone who wants to go to another world...even if it is just for only one hour.

Reviewed by: Steph
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on 1 May 2011
The story of this book has to be one of my favourites in the series, as you follow Isabel's journey as a stravagante. The finale is great, and there are a few pages at the back of the book that help you to imagine how the battle took place, with the formation of the ships. There is a moving relationship between Flavia and Andrea and on the flip side, Georgia's relationship with Nick purely aggrevated me. Georgia is far too stroppy considering what a privilege she has had and the sacrifices Nick has made to stay with her.
Will be reading this book again for sure!
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