Title/Series: Stravaganza series (titles of books in post)
Author: Mary Hoffman
Genre: YA, fantasy, romance (more innocent than most ya books)
Perfect for: everyone? I love this series too much to not recommend it to readers of ya fantasy who love to travel to new places in their books and are looking for a series that touches on some great points about friendship, confidence, and other good things like that. :-)
Star Rating: 5/5 stars
Taken from Goodreads, here is a description of the first novel in this series. "Lucien is seriously ill but his life is transformed when an old Italian notebook gives him the power to become a stravagante, a time traveller with access to 16th century Italy."
I studied in Florence, Italy for a month. It was a great month. During that month, I got to call Florence my home, the grand duomo's and tiny side streets my backyard. I saw sculptures from famous sculpters every day without even meaning to. I won't be able to afford to go back there any time soon, but thanks to Mary Hoffman, all I have to do to re-live the beautiful country is to open one of her books.
Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series is one of those series that should have more of a following that it does. It should have a legion of fans like popular series Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia. And you know what? I think it will one day. It's hard for me to review this series book by book, especially in the case of 'City of Masks'. So much has happened since then and I've loved the stories so much that writing about one chapter of their lives is hard! (It's like watching Star Wars: A New Hope and trying to not think it's weird when Leia kisses Luke "for luck". I can't help but think about the big brother/sister reveal in 'Return of the Jedi'!) Anyways, back on topic...
The basic premise of the series is simple-- each book features a teenager that needs help, even if they don't know it. In Lucien's case, he's suffering from cancer. Pretty much bed ridden, he falls asleep holding a Italian made journal and wakes up in 'Talia', an alternate version of Renaissance Italy. From then on, his life is never the same again. Each book takes place in an alternate version of another Italian city. From experience, I can say that Hoffman does a great job at capturing the essence of Italy and each town covered in these novels.
One of my favorite bits about this series is that while each book has a new main character, the characters from past books are quite present. Also, Hoffman's stories have a good mix of character development, action sequences, and even some cute romances.
All I can say is read this series! It is filled witty characters that you'll grow to love, an Italian setting that is written brilliantly, and stories that are not only about saving the day or finding a soul mate, but also learning more about yourself and understanding that the smallest, most insignificant talent can help in the long run.
This series is available in hardcover (limited) and paperback. The first trilogy is comprised of: 'City of Masks', 'City of Stars', and 'City of Flowers'. The second trilogy is comprised of 'City of Secrets', 'City of Ships', and the 2012 release (too far away!!!!) 'City of Swords'.