City of Ships (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman

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City of Ships (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sophie Hickman
Reviewed by Sophie Hickman
Summary: Mary Hoffman delivers another rollicking read involving parallel worlds, pirates and politics. However, the longer this series gets the more repetitive it seems.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-0747592532

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Isabel is unhappy. Her twin brother is better at everything and she has to make up an imaginary twin to compensate. But when she trips up on a bag of silver tesserae (mosaic tiles) all of that begins to change - she falls asleep holding the tiles and finds herself in Classe, in a parallel world, a country equivalent to Italy, encountered in previous books by Lucien, Georgia, Sky and Matt. She is a Stravagante, a traveller in time and space, and the bag of tesserae are her talisman. Invited into the Stravagante group, she encounters problems with pirates, politics and 'the usual' teenage troubles.

I have been reading the Stravaganza books since I was nine years old (even though I didn't understand them properly) I was sucked in by the brilliant writing and rollicking stories. Mary Hoffman is one of my favourite authors – she is funny but can be suitably serious, you can picture her world but the writing isn't weighed down with description. She is a real talent, and 'City of Ships' reads like she had a lot of fun writing it. The teenage gang are a bit stereotypical, but brilliantly characterised. No two characters are the same and everyone has sufficient depth.

Does this ever happen to you? Just as you are marvelling at how amazing something is, a criticism has to pop into your head. That's what happened when I read 'City of Ships' – and it happened twice. The first was at the beginning, when it struck me how repetitive these books are. They all start off with the same routine. It works, but it does get a bit irritating. And the second was at the end: it reads like Mary Hoffman got to a certain point, thought 'now how can I end this?' and took the easy route.

Aside from the nausea some of the teenage scenes induced, and the fact that one of the main characters was called 'Nick Duke' on one page and 'Nick Drake' on another, these are my only criticisms. This is a really fun book and I have always wondered at why this series is not more popular. I have never read anything else like them, although they come from the same 'genre' in my life as authors like Julia Golding and Helen Dunmore.

To have a full understanding of this book, I would recommend it to anyone aged twelve and up, because of complex family trees and politics. For a year or so, until it came up in conversation, I thought that, due to the 'parallel' world of Talia, gold tarnished rather than silver. . .

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you like this, you will love Mary Hoffman's other books, such as Troubadour or City of Swords. I would also recommend Julia Golding, Helen Dunmore, and, one of my more recent discoveries, Frances Hardinge.

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Buy City of Ships (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy City of Ships (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman at


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