‘City of Masks’ – Mary Hoffman
Imagine you are one moment ill in bed, and the next transported to a world that is awash with deception, intrigue, and glamour. In a spine-tingling discovery, Lucien discovers that he is in fact a ‘Stravagante’ and with the help of a talisman can transport himself to sixteenth century Bellezza, a city inspired by Venice , and filled with unexpected danger.
Wish swishing velvet, glittering masks, political intrigue and treachery – and a demanding and imperious Duchessa – Mary Hoffman has vividly conjured up a rich, magical and compelling world, the first in the trilogy of Talia.
Take some teenage fiction and add mystery, masks and a spot of time travel and you get Mary Hoffman’s ‘City of Masks’. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is technically teenage fiction, as, like I am sure most of you are aware, this catalogue has dramatically increased in recent years, with books appealing to adults alike. And this novel is no exception.
Following Lucien through his adventure is gripping and at the same time quite emotional. The present day story is such a contrast to the Bellezzan adventures that you are almost always desperate to know what is going on in the ‘other world’. The plot is fast-paced and the switch between the different worlds frequently is like the end of an episode of ‘EastEnders’ (cue theme music). As the reader follows Lucien and learn more about him, the connection Hoffman establishes between him and reader is emotional; you want a happy ending, but at what cost?
Mary Hoffman has written a novel with pace and excitement. The two time periods are of equal importance to the development of the narrative and leaves the reader with conflicting emotions throughout. The descriptions of Bellezza (like our Venice) are so graphic and vivid it leaves you wanting to visit and explore the city for yourself, finding parallels to Bellezza. You forget that this is not an adult novel and, like the blurb reveals, you finish the book in anticipation of what the next installment has to offer.
I would definitely recommend this book to read. It is so unlike a lot of the teenage fiction already out there and the characters (whilst there are quite a few of them) make this a delightful read; you love to love the good characters and love to hate the enemies! Indulge yourself in a bit of teenage fiction and I guarantee you, like me, will be left wondering what happens next to the Stravagantes.