City of Swords (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman

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City of Swords (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Satisfying end to a much-loved series, including some long-awaited nuptials. As ever, Hoffman combines traditional storytelling with contemporary sensibilities, adding a real flavour of history into the mix.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408800500

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Laura's unhappiness is hidden away where no-one can see it. But she does have a release. She knows cutting herself is wrong, but the relief it provides is addictive. But Laura's secretive life is upturned by the discovery that she is a Stravagante - a person who can travel through time and space. Transported to sixteenth century Fortezza, she finds herself in the middle of a bitter battle for succession to the city's dukedom. The Stravaganti are supporting Princess Lucia but Laura also meets Ludo, the pretender, and is immediately drawn to him. And at home in Barnsbury, Laura's life is changing too, now she is a part of the time-travelling community.

Will Fortezza avoid civil war? Will Laura escape her unhappiness? And will we miss the Stravaganti when they're gone?

Aww. It's the last one. No more Stravaganza stories. Sigh. Oh well. City of Swords is a very satisfying conclusion to what has been a thoroughly enjoyable and original sequence, involving time travel, an alternate renaissance Italy, and a plucky bunch of British teenagers with recognisable preoccupations. There are many fantasy sequences in the teen and young adult markets, but this one really has made its mark.

Hoffman writes books that feel very traditional, following a long line of fantasy adventures for young people. She focuses on a group of teenagers transported way out of their comfort zone and called upon to behave with great heroism. Of course, they're all brave but fallible. She also creates a traditionally rich fantasy world with an historical flavour - her Talia is a vivid picture of renaissance Italy, divided into city states. And this last novel is set in a place based on Lucca, a beautiful walled city I know very well. But Hoffman is also very modern. Her characters have contemporary issues that you'd never have seen mentioned in Narnia or Swallows and Amazons. The newest Stravagante in City of Swords is Laura, whose unhappiness makes her self harm. Early on in the book, there's a very distressing episode in which Laura cuts herself so badly she is hospitalised. So these stories have traditional appeal but for a modern audience and I really like that about them.

You couldn't call Hoffman a stylist. Her prose is efficient, not lyrical, but the plot of City of Swords moves on apace so you never get bored and fans of this series will enjoy the added anticipation of a long plot arc involving two favourite characters. Will wedding bells finally ring? You betcha. But that's all I'm saying. Except for...

... enjoy!

Don't forget to visit the Stravaganza website, where you can download extras, including short stories, for free!

If you like time slips and parallel worlds, you'll also enjoy the sequence by N M Browne, in which the historical period is also full of accurate and sophisticated detail. Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer is an equally wonderful time-travel adventure, this time with its junior heroes visiting the eighteenth century.

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Buy City of Swords (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy City of Swords (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy City of Swords (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy City of Swords (Stravaganza) by Mary Hoffman at


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