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This review is from: City of Ships (Stravaganza) (Paperback)
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.