I’ve had Mary Hoffman on my mind recently, so it’s hardly surprising I’ve been thinking about her Stravaganza series. What did surprise even me, was that I hadn’t written anything about the books, but there are ways of remedying such an oversight.
I’d seen the books in the school library without really seeing them. But once I’d started looking, I couldn’t understand why I’d delayed so long. So far there are three Stravaganza books; City of Masks, City of Stars and City of Flowers.
Mary has dreamed up a new – well, old really – parallel Italy in the 16th century. Perfectly ordinary London teenagers go to sleep in their beds at home, and wake up in a city in Talia four hundred years earlier. They spend their nights in this other world, where it is daytime, and then stravagate back to London for a day at school. This will explain why so many teenagers are perpetually tired.
The City of Masks is Belleza, but is really a nearly Venice. While in Talia the teenagers, Lucien, Georgia and Sky have new names, can speak to the locals, and have the most amazing adventures. They usually turn out to be material to something important going on in their respective new cities, where they can use their modern world skills to some good.
There are older Stravaganti around who help them, and many other Talians who are good to them. And then there are the di Chimicis, who are villains of the first order.
The reader soaks up a lot of knowledge on the great Italian cities, which Mary is so enthusiastic about. Personally I feel ready to take my Stravaganzas to Italy and use them as guide books. They are that good.
I’d expected the Resident IT Consultant to frown at these books. Don’t ask me why. But I think he beat me to every single one of them. Though he was a bit shocked, as he asked if it’s really all right to kill your young characters off. Well, the plot needs a bit of death here and there. And it’s only fiction…
The physical books are very attractive, too. My three Stravaganzas would look great on my red and purple colour shelf. If I had one.