CITY OF SECRETS is the fourth installment in Mary Hoffman's STRAVAGANZA series.
Matt is a normal English seventeen-year-old, until a book he got for his birthday takes him on the journey of his life -- to another world. Talia is similar to Italy, but is a few hundred years in the past from the 21st century.
On his journey, Matt meets Luciano, an old Stravagante who now permanently lives in Talia after having died in London. With Luciano, his foster father Docter Dethridge, a few other Stravagante, and many friends, Matt embarks on a journey of a lifetime. He finds himself being kidnapped, freeing convicts, and trying to pass his driver's exam!
Ms. Hoffman writes an enchanting tale that takes the reader to another world. The fast-paced novel is truly enticing and recommended to all ages. While the non-English reader might be confused by some of the references, there aren't too many that will defer the reader from the main task -- trying to find out what happens next.
This is an excellent addition to the series, with the ending leaving room for even more books.
Mary Hoffman returns with the next book in the Stravagante series and if you liked her previous books, then you will not be disappointed. Set in Padavia, we are introduced to a new Talian location but, unlike the previous books, there is less of a focus on there geography and more on people, action and politics.
In ‘City of Secrets’ we follow Matt,the new Stravagante. He, like his predecessors, faces some modern, personal challenges to overcome and it is these that lead him to securing his talisman. The same characters return once again and they reunite to help Matt when he is in danger. Surprisingly, however, the Stravagante secret circle broadens a fair bit, with Matt’s girlfriend and Lucien’s parents finding out about the Brotherhood. I was quite surprised that Hoffman chose to do this, particularly with the offer that Matt’s girlfriend could “visit” Talia and felt that this lessened the magic of stravagation. Indeed, Lucien even returns to Islington a couple of times and I thought this did kind of go against the warnings he received early on in the series.
That being said I really enjoyed the politics and treachery of ‘City of Secrets’ and could not predict how the plot would develop. The ending is a bit of a surprise and, if I am completely honest, a bit of an anti-climax to what had happened previously, but I enjoyed the happy ending that prevailed. This time Hoffman finishes with an Epilogue and tied up all the plot strands very neatly.
I am really keen to see how the next story in the series progresses. It is clear that the political tensions from the di Chimici family are becoming more threatening for the Stravagante and I look forward to seeing them triumph over such a dangerous power. Definitely read this if you enjoyed the other books in the series because Hoffman keeps it fresh and enjoyable to read.
Matt, a dyslexic rugby player who is afraid his girlfriend Ayeesha will dump him is the latest stravagante.He goes to Padavia where he is not dyslexic at all and works on bookbinding with his Stravagante Professor Constantin. Constantin also teaches Luciano and Cesare who are studying at the uni of Padavia. However, although Matt is drawn to talia and unlike heroes of previous books has to come regularly or the bookbinders will get suspicous(not sure why this didn't apply to Sky in Flowers) this actually makes his problems worse as Ayeesha feels he is pushing her away by hanging out with Georgia, sky and Nick all the timetalking about Talia.
Meanwhile in Giglia the di Chimici are keen to get revenge for the death of one of their own at the end of Flowers. Fabrizio di Chimici sends his cousin Filippo(Francesca's brother) to befriend luciano and catch him under the new witchcraft laws Rinaldo di Chimici has persuaded the governor of Padavia to introduce. Ignoring warnings from Enrico the spy, who is now working for him, that Filippo is not his friend, Luciano classes him as one of the "good" di Chimici. And Luciano is not the only person the new witchcraft laws threaten...
Whether or not you will like this book basically depends on whether you liked the first three. if you're not intwerested in what Luciano and other characters did next don't read this. I don't actually think Flowers needed a sequel, it ended pretty perfectly but it is nice to see all the characters again. The most interesting old characters in this book are probably Luciano, Arianna and Enrico. I do agree with the other reviews that the older covers were much nicer.
The first third of this book is just the genereal lives of the characters where they drift aroubnd meeting each other and forming alliances-there's also a lot of detail about things like printing presses- and this was the part I didn't like much. But once the evil eye comes into it(saying more would be a spoiler)the book speeds up and gets considerably better. Matt takes a significant role in the action in Talia and starts to sort his problems out. The last third is a Grand Climax followed by what happens afterwards.
There's some foreshadowing of the next book which doesn't really have anything to do with this one e.g. Beatrice di Chimici's restlessness. Also there's a mystery about a member of the Manoush which the author doesn't appear to plan on resolving which is very annoying. It wouldn't be fair to say cvharacters are shown in black and white, but they move more towards that direction than they did in the first three books. In Masks for instance, Rinaldo and Enrico were villiains but you could sort of sympathesise with them and even like them. In this book Enrico isn't a villain at all and Rinaldo's entering into the church seems to have caused him to lose his scruples and become vile bordering on evil(not that I'm saying that's unrealistic; Renaissance church importants did sometimes seem to be psychopaths.)
There's also more about Science in this book, particularly anatomy-and what anatomnists were actua\lly permitted to do.You couldn't donate your body to Science in those days.
A good thing about Secrets in contrast to some of the others is that the action in the real world is actually relevant to the action in Taluia-they're not two seperate stories and actually spill into one another.
So overall, if you liked the other books ,you'll probably like this one too-but if you're planning on starting the series I really wouldn't start here. At the very least all the names will confuse you very quickly.
This book follows on nicely from the rest of the series. It still has the characters from all of the previous books, which is good as it brings a feel of familiarity without making the book too "samey". The plot is brilliant, as you follow Matt's story into becoming a stravagante, and there is a perfect balance between the current period and the 16th century. Lots of cliff hangers and drama, my only criticism would be that the characters in the finale aren't mentioned enough throughout the book, so I wasn't as moved as I could have been when they almost met their demise. Apart from that, the book is brilliant and definitely worth a read!
Good story for young (or young at heart) readers who like fantasy stories. The series is set in different in different Italian cities and cleverly weaves a bit of history and geography into a compelling fiction. It poses an interesting theory about death and parallel worlds.
The cover totally ruined my collection and it wasn't really an upgrade. I thought that the artwork was much better in the previous books alas, what can you do.
Anyhow, other than the cover it's great to see Stravaganza recieving more support as a series and this book was a welcome return. It was interesting and had all of the previous main characters as well as a new character, who this book was centered on.
If you have read the previous books in the series this one is more of the same. Recommended.