Title: Stravaganza: City of Mask
Author: Mary Hoffman
What it's about: Lucien, a boy sick with cancer, finds that he can "stravagate", or travel to another world, when he falls asleep holding a special notebook his father bought for him. Lucien's travels take him to Bellezza, an alternate version of the city of Venice during the 16th century. In Bellezza, Lucien finds himself completely well, learns more about stravagation, and has adventures with Arianna, a girl from a nearby island. He also becomes entangled in the city's politics and finds that danger comes hand in hand with excitement in this new world.
What I thought: So I tried reading this book several years ago, but it didn't hook me. Now, maybe because of the time I spent in Italy, I find it much more engaging. Actually, I'm surprised it didn't hook me the last time I read it, because this is pretty much just the sort of story I'm always looking for. Interesting, realistic characters have adventures in a glamorous other world of magic and intrigue. What's not to like? And the book is quite detailed. You can tell that Hoffman put a lot of work into creating Bellezza and stravagation. Well, there's plenty of twists and turns and excitement, and it's all well plotted out. Some stuff I could predict, but other bits I could not, which all balances out well. Reminds me that I'd been contemplating writing a little essay on my thoughts on foreshadowing. But anyway. Great book.
Overall: Captivating tale of adventure and intrigue.