Stravaganza City of Secrets by Mary Hoffman

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Stravaganza City of Secrets by Mary Hoffman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley
Reviewed by Jason Mark Curley
Summary: A fantastic novel which makes me want to go back and read the whole series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747592501

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Matt Wood, a dyslexic boy from London, is just about to turn seventeen. He comes from a musical family – his father is a virtuoso opera singer and his brother is developing into a brilliant trumpet player, and so, Matt feels slightly left out. On his birthday, he gets the usual disappointing card from his great-aunt Eva. As always she has forgotten about his learning disability and sent him the usual book voucher. He uses it to buy an antique book written in a language he doesn't understand.

On the night of his birthday meal, he falls asleep while trying to read the book, when he awake, he finds out he's been transported to Padavia, a city famous for its university. He finds out that while there, he can actually read and that he is a Stravagante – a traveller between the worlds and that the book is his talisman – the most important object for a Stavagante to have. He wakes up to find himself back in London and is shocked to find out his friends have already had adventures in the other, strange world. His short trip there is only the start of his adventures.

I have to be honest here and tell you that, before I read this novel, I hadn't heard of the Stravaganza sequence. This is the fourth in the series of novels set in an alternate reality version of renaissance Italy and modern-day Islington. This is a speculative fiction thriller, and I'm in total agreement with the books tag-line, you really do enter a world of treachery and danger.

There is a fantastic mix of well written elements in this books – the characters are fantastic, the description and feel of the overall sense of place in Padavia absolutely takes you there. The fantasy elements are handled both subtly and believably, and tie into an obviously well constructed and intelligently conceived world. I was hooked as soon as I picked it up and only the inability to keep my eyes open stopped me reading this book in one sitting.

The thing that this book achieves is to provide a fantastic story, delivered in a way that is new and refreshing. There really isn't a dull moment when the story gets going, and this leads me to my only criticism – I felt the prologue was unwieldy and unnecessary.

The really annoying thing for me is that I didn't get into this series from the start. I'm surprised this set of books is not that widely known. I'm going to have to go back to the beginning of the series and read them, but I really dislike doing that! I'm always worried that something I've already read will give away something about the previous books. Even so, if the rest of the series is anything like this novel, it'll be worth it.

If you like this book, I'd read Triskellion, which I reviewed on publication.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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


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J.McConnel said:

Hello I have read all the books exept this one and I really enjoyed them all. I got the first one for my Christmas and I read it and it hooked me. For the next couple of mornings none of my family could wake me. I like your review it makes me really want to read this book. Thank you Yours Sencirly

J.McConnel Age 13