Stravaganza: City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman wraps up the trilogy begun with City of Masks (about which PW said, "The Renaissance backdrop [and Venetian-style city] set an elegant mood for the time-travel toggling"). Here, a small blue glass bottle (another talisman of the Stravaganti) sends teenage Sky, whose mother is suffering from an illness, back to Giglia (the City of Flowers) in Talia-he even meets Lucien Mulholland from the launch title. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The latest book in the "Stravaganza" series (others are City of Masks and City of Stars) introduces Sky Meadows, a London teen, as the newest Stravagante, or member of a select society of time travelers who are transported back and forth between present-day London and sixteenth-century Talia (very much like Italy) and especially Giglia (very much like Florence, but not quite). Sky and a few classmates from his comprehensive school are drawn into feuds between the ruling di Chimici family (very much like the Medici) and the Nuccis (Pittis). The action involves murders, a near poisoning, a lavish quadruple wedding, and the terrible revenge of the Chimicis on their enemies. In between, the Londoners deal with school, romances, and various personal problems at home. It's an exhausting life, but supernatural helpers like a winged horse or mental fields of force help in a pinch. One of the former young Londoners will actually become a Duke when he marries the beautiful Arianna, Duchessa of Bellezza (very much like Venice). For those having trouble keeping the huge cast of characters straight, Hoffman thoughtfully provides a detailed family tree and explains its relationship to the real Medicis. Teens who enjoyed the previous adventures of the Stravaganti will love the tangled details and the intrigue; those who do not relish alternate worlds may find the nearly 500 pages tedious, especially the rather boring and predictable London parts. They may even wonder why the author did not just write a historical novel set in post-Renaissance Italy. 2005, Bloomsbury, Ages 10 to 16.
Barbara L. Talcroft
Gr 7 Up-In this third installment in the series, Sky Meadows, a London teen, finds himself drawn magically to a land called Talia, which resembles Italy of the 1500s. Brought to the city of Giglia by a monk named Brother Sulien, Sky learns that he is one of a secret fellowship of Stravaganti, people who can travel between certain times, places, and dimensions. Sky, along with several other London Stravaganti teenagers, quickly becomes enmeshed in Giglian intrigue; when the ruthless Duke Niccol di Chimici decides not only to marry off all his sons in a grand ceremony, but also to ask for the unwilling Duchessa Arianna Rossi's hand in marriage, a feud erupts, and the Stravaganti have their hands full trying to halt the bloodshed. Readers who are new to the series will have a hard time keeping the bewilderingly large cast of characters straight and will have many questions about issues that fans of the series already understand or take for granted-why does Arianna always wear a mask? How are the Stravaganti "chosen?" Sky, son of a white single mom and an absent black rock star, is an engaging character with worries of his own, and the world of Talia is presented in vivid sensory detail that immediately sweeps readers into the story. Arianna is not a particularly compelling character in this installment, but the swirling intrigue, romance, and deadly feuding will keep fans happy. A must if you already have the first two books in your collection.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A crackerjack conclusion to a superior historical fantasy trilogy. British teen Sky Meadow has his hands full taking care of his invalid mother when an antique perfume bottle sends him to a magical alternate Renaissance Italy as the newest "Stravaganti." Masquerading as a novice friar, Sky is tasked with preventing violence between the rival families of Giglia (the equivalent of Florence), as the di Chimici (Medici) clan prepares to cement their dominance through multiple dynastic weddings. But the Machiavellian Duke Niccolo also has plans for the young Duchessa of precariously independent Bellezza (Venice), embroiling the Stravaganti and their allies in labyrinthine plots and counterplots. Hoffman sensuously evokes a world drenched in sunshine, perfume and the glitter of gems and lace, where scientific and artistic brilliance intermingle with poverty, cruelty and political vendettas. While character development is perfunctory, nobody will care; not when feuds, floods, tournaments, banquets, poisonings, spies, sculptors, rock stars, princes, orphans, weddings, stabbings and a final climactic duel supercharge a narrative which somehow manages to artfully resolve the plot threads of all three volumes. Bonus: Fans should flock to the history section to investigate the fascinating setting. (Fantasy. 11+)