‘City of Swords’ – Mary Hoffman
Desperately unhappy, Laura has resorted to secretly self-harming. But Laura is a Stravagante, somebody who can travel in time and space. When she finds her talisman, a small silver dagger, she stravagates with it to sixteenth-century Fortezza, a town similar to Lucca in Italy, where she meets her Stravagante, who is a swordsmith. But Laura also meets the charming and attractive Ludo, and falls for him. Their love for each other is tested when Ludo lays claim to the crown of Fortezza, and Laura finds herself fighting on the side of the Stravaganti opposing him.
So, Mary Hoffman brings the Stravaganza series to a close with ‘City of Swords’. It was a solid book but I do think that those who could access Talia at the end was just a little too easy for my liking; in my head, to be a Stravagante is something that is exclusive and a role the character had been chosen for, and I think this does get lost in the story.
But, my! What a sad Stravagante we meet in ‘City of Swords’! Laura is very different to the previous Stravagante and the issues Hoffman explore are quite thought-provoking and one that is every parent’s nightmare. The difficulty Laura faces in accepting her new role is unlike her predecessors and she often does not wish to return to Talia. I felt really sorry for Laura and her family after what she goes through and the twist towards the end of the book was really so unexpected, I felt like I had missed something earlier on! This twist really needed more attention and I think it would have been good if this had been introduced and explored earlier on in the novel.
Once more the story has a lengthy list of characters so it is either a good idea to read this book closely after ‘City of Ships’, or keep consulting the character list at the end of the book. I still found the characters and family loyalties a little confusing but liked the drama the extensive character list brought. Indeed, as the novel reaches its climax, it felt like there was tension and action from all of the the characters.
I really enjoyed reading this book and felt that the ending was nearly conclusive. Like so many films, Hoffman does not fully finish the story, leaving it open for further books in the series. I wish that it had been totally finished off because I would have found this far more satisfying, particularly as this has been quite a long series. What let it down for me is that it did seem a little rushed and I was keen to know what had happened to the Stravagante once they had returned to Islington after the final show-down.
True, the plot is a little predictable but this book is in keeping with the rest of the series. I think most of my enjoyment came from the fact that I knew this was the last in the series (I really hope Hoffman doesn’t open it up again) and the personal challenges that Laura has to face are almost reminiscent of Lucien’s in the first book. I would recommend it if you have already come this far in the series, just to see how it plays out, but don’t be surprised if you feel like the ending is a bit of an anti-climax.