I am back, after a lengthy but much needed break I am ready to jump into the blogging game again. I am kicking the restart of my reading and book blogging with a review of one of my favorite childhood books that I was recently able to re-read due to a friend loaning the series to me.
City of Masks is the first book in the Stravaganza series and the first book in a wonderful fantasy series. Find the book on Goodreads here.
The book takes place in London following Lucien, a 15 year old boy with cancer. After being given a notebook from his father with Italian origins Lucien discovers that he is a part of a group of people called the Stravaganti. He is able to travel across time and different dimensions (best way I can describe that.) to a different reality and time based on the real life Italy. In this different Italy, called Talia, Lucien is no longer sick. He isn’t tired, weary or any of the things that he is in his mortal life. As he enjoys this new found freedom and cure, he explores the complex world of Talia and the City of Bellezza.
This book is unique in the sense that I haven’t actually read a whole lot of books on time travel, mainly because I am not that into Sci-Fi books or even the huge fantasy books that take ages to read. I love them once in a while, but when it gets to the sci-fi aspect of things I just haven’t found an author that I really like while reading about things that like. I loved this book though, and it didn’t really drag on for me. I felt like I could really get into the story without being overwhelemd by the time traveling and different dimensions of the book. The book was a fairly quick read I managed to read it in one day while doing other household things as well. That’s not to say that it’s not good, the first book is just a little smaller than the others and it took no time at all to get through.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book, we didn’t always follow Lucien throughout the book and I enjoyed being able to get glimpses of other characters and what was going on in a world like that. Obviously being set in the 16th century (the alternate universe at least) things were a lot more complicated and definitely more tricky to deal with than just in our regular lives. There were different more strict rules, as well as feuding families and plots to overthrow certain powers.
The author was also really big into Italy and that whole culture, so it really tied over into the book and her writing. She made things very different yet almost the same as real life Italy, and it definitely added to the story and her writing. You could tell that the author knew a lot about what she was writing about, and it flowed over very nicely into the book. It didn’t seem as though it was far fetched, but as if that world she created could be real. The rules and the customs of that particular culture were complex and well thought out. World building is not an easy task but it was definitely pulled off very gracefully in this novel. Being able to capture the aspect of a culture while still making up a culture that parallels is amazing and Mary Hoffman did a wonderful job.
I loved the mystery and the intrigue of this book, although I can not tell you if it was shocking to me since I have read this book before. I remember when I was younger I was so glued to this book though, and re-reading it was amazing. Even knowing what was going to happen I was still anticipating the plot twists and the inevitable events that would happen. I didn’t feel like there really was a dull moment, as there was so much to learn in the book- about the culture and the world that was built- I didn’t feel as though a part of the book drug on or slowed down. There wasn’t any fluff or padding, just a heartfelt story and introduction to the world of Stravaganti.
If you love fantasy books, especially if you are looking for something equally good but not as dragging or draining as other books, this is definitely a good read. There is a great historical aspect to it as well, with all the research that went into it. It’s a great read, and I felt as though the author pulled off the concept to this book very well. I am eager to dive into the rest of the series as I have never actually finished this series before. This book is not for everyone, I have seen some complaints about not being terribly complex or thought provoking but I had no trouble with it. If you love the long fantasy books and need something extremely complex to read then I do not recommend this book. I really enjoyed this because I felt that the author did a wonderful job and it was refreshing to read a fantasy book that didn’t make me want to go into a months long reading slump. I rated this a 5/5 stars on Goodreads, partly because I really loved it and partly because of the nostalgia of reading it as a kid.