Stravaganza: City Of Masks
Grade 7 Up-Arianna wants to be a mandolier, but in 16th-century Bellezza, the city on the water in Talia ruled by the Duchessa, the training is open only to boys. Meanwhile, in 21st-century England, Lucien is coping with the aftereffects of chemotherapy. Holding onto a notebook rescued from the trash brings him strange dreams of a Venetian-like city, and soon he is in Arianna's world. She is outraged when he is chosen to enter the Scuola Mandoliera, and he plunges feet first into life in Bellezza, where he can escape his sick body. With the notebook, Lucien/Luciano "stravagates" between his home and the past, and is soon burning the candle at both ends. He soon becomes fast friends with Arianna and apprentice to Rodolfo, a favorite of the Duchessa whom Luciano rescues from an assassination attempt. Hoffman has created a dazzling world; vibrant characters; and a wondrous story of politics, intrigue, and youthful romance. Though some of the plot twists are hardly surprising, getting through them is rewarding. The author's gift for detail brings life to cathedrals, lagoons, and lace, and some of her parallels to Venice are clever, such as a Bridge of Sorrow instead of the Bridge of Sighs. As the book draws to a close, Lucien dies in England, but continues to live in the past. Readers of this fascinating novel will be thrilled to learn that it is the first in a trilogy.