“City of Masks” by Mary Hoffman

city of masks

The chance to go or see another world does not come to anyone. But in Mary Hoffman’s book series those lucky people are called stravaganti. With the help of talismans the time-and-space travelers have the opportunity of visiting XVI century Talia, the equivalent of our Italy. The adventure starts in the city of masks – Belleza. Yes, you’ve guessed right, it is the mirror image of Venice. But don’t be deceived – there are a lot of things that differ and not all of them are for the better.

Lucien Mulholland is a teenage boy who is suffering from cancer. Due to his chemotherapy he has little energy and spends most of his time in bed. Everything changes when his dad brings him a notebook that seems to be vintage Italian. Little does he know that the moment he falls asleep, clutching his new possession, Lucien is transported to the beautiful city of masks. There he finds himself healthy and free of the bounds of sleepiness and tiredness that seem to control his life in 21st century London.

The thing is that in Belleza Lucien runs into the pretty Arianna and together they are flung in a vortex of uncontrollable events. Nothing is what it seems and danger is around every corner. The two friends must be very careful who they trust. The main enemy is the Chimici family who has the ambition of controlling the twelve city states in Talia. The city of masks adores the Duchessa as a leader and that fact puts the ruler in quite some dangers. It is up to Lucien and his master – Rodolfo (who is also a stravganti and the Duchassa’s lover) to protect the independence of Belleza.

Can young Lucien handle all the pressure from both of his lives? The trouble comes from his sleepless nights which are spent in the wonderful Talia. At home he feels even more tired and sick while in the city of masks he has almost unlimited energy. There will come a time when living in two worlds will be impossible and our brave hero will have to face a very difficult choice.

The atmosphere of Belleza is absolutely unique. The canals that snake their way in the city are full of mandolas that are all guided by handsome young men. For a girl it sounds like a dream come true. Another interesting thing that is a characteristic for this part of Talia is the law for masks. A woman who has reached the age of 16 must always wear mask until she is married. Needless to say the Duchessa’s face stays hidden all the time from her people. This has helped her on more than one occasion.

It seems that for a boy like Lucien the choice is quite easy. But the beautiful Belleza does not have the luxuries of the modern world. Also his parents are not there. And while he is threatened by death in his world, Lucien has the comfort of parental love, which nothing can substitute. What will happen – read and find out.

Mary Hoffman creates wonderful and thrilling books filled with plot twist and unexpected turns of events. If you want to escape in a world of treachery and deceit, beauty and danger, love and hatred – the Stravaganza sequence are the novels for you. Don’t hesitate and see for yourself the adventures of Lucien and his fellows in arms.




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