Review: City of Masks

15 Jul

I’ve decided to write a review for all of the books I read and post it here. This particular review isn’t for a reading challenge; I’ll be sure to note if a review is for a challenge. Anyway, here is the review, and enjoy!


Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman

Copyright 2002, Bloomsbury

15-year-old Lucien Mullholland, who lives in England, is miserably undergoing treatment for his brain cancer. His life seems horrible and worthless until his father gives him a strange, beautiful notebook as a the city of masks coverpresent. When he goes to sleep that night, holding the notebook, he finds himself in an alternate dimension where it is still the 16th century and they consider magic science and our science magic. He finds out that the city he is in is called Bellezza, and he decides that it is an alternate Venice.  He meets a local girl called Arianna, who leads him to a man who can help him: Rodolfo, chief adviser and magician to the Duchessa of Bellezza. Rodolfo explains to Lucien, newly dubbed Luciano, that he is a Stravagante, or a traveller between worlds. Now Luciano must work with Rodolfo to save the city of Bellezza and its ruler the Duchessa from the wicked di Chimici family, who is attempting to take over all of their world by “stravagating” to the 21st century and stealing its technology. Meanwhile, when Luciano/Lucien is in his home dimension, his cancer is only getting worse. He doesn’t know what to think, given all that is going on in his life. Will Lucien survive his cancer? And how will Luciano fare in the battle against the di Chimicis? Read the book and find out! This is an intoxicating tale of intrigue, magic, and love, and is a lovely read for fans of historical fiction and fantasy.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Praise and Awards for City of Masks :

A Booklist Editors’ Choice

A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

“Utterly fascinating, this rich, rip-roaring adventure–the first in a series–will no doubt whet readers’ appetites for Italian history and culture as well as the next installment.” —Booklist, starred review

“Hoffman has created a dazzling world; vibrant characters;and a wondrous story of politics, intrigue, and youthful romance.” —School Library Journal

“Suspenseful and fabulously inventive.” —Albemarle magazine

“[A] colorful other world, rich with court intrigues and magic…The Renaissance backdrop sets an elegant mood for the time-travel toggling.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hoffman’s fast-paced plot tightly integrates the fantastic with the historical and frequent cuts between viewpoints ratchet up the suspense.”–Kirkus Reviews

“The story is strong and involving, with plenty of intrigue and adventure in this fantastic alternate Venice.” —LOCUS

“Hoffman has created a viable alternate world with a Venice that is not quite Venice but still retains all the romance associated with exquisite masquerades and court policies…Lucien/Luciano’s dilemma is wholly convincing, and the atmosphere of the decadent, elegant city that worships the sea is deftly evoked. “–The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This competent time-travel-alternate-world novel scores high marks for world-building…Sure-handed plotting and a satisfying ending will draw readers.” —VOYA

“Lovers of historical fiction and fantasy will be intoxicated by the rich descriptions and elaborate settings.” —Ohio Library Media Connection

First Sentence of City of Masks [This was an idea I got from The Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog ~ Thanks!]:

In a room at the top of a tall house overlooking a canal, a man sat dealing cards out on to a desk covered in black silk.

Visit the Stravaganza website at:

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Posted by on July 15, 2009 in Book Reviews


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