Stravaganza: City of Ships – by Mary Hoffman
I think this might actually be my favorite of this series so far. That’s mostly because I identified with Isabel more than I had with any of the previous characters. She’s quiet and insecure and feels invisible until her adventures in Talia start to give her more confidence and she befriends the other Stravaganti. There are also several romantic relationships in this book for me to be invested in, which is always a plus.
Isabel feels inferior to her twin brother Charlie and she leads a somewhat unremarkable life until the day she finds a small bag of silver mosaic tiles and is transported to Talia, an alternate-universe version of Renaissance Italy. The city of Classe in which she finds herself is in imminent danger of attack from the sea and she is thrown into the effort to prepare, without any idea of how she’ll be able to help in the battle. All of the previous Stravaganti are back as Isabel becomes a part of their circle, and she tries to juggle her old life and school work with her new friends and her life in Talia. This is the fifth book in Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza series, and while each book could technically be read as a stand-alone, since they each center on a new character, there’s enough complex background and a large enough cast of characters that I wouldn’t really recommend jumping in in the middle.
The background is actually complex enough that once again, I had trouble sorting it all out and remembering everything from the last book. There are so many people with similar names and some with the same name that it gets rather confusing. I did discover after finishing the book that there is a list of characters and a di Chimici family tree in the back. I only wish I’d known that at the start – it would have saved a lot of confusion. Aside from that, I don’t really have any complaints. The concept is an interesting one, with the potential to last for many more volumes, and as I said before, this is my favorite of the series. It’s full of swashbuckling adventure, political intrigue, and romance and should be great fun for fans of historical fiction as well as fantasy. You can find my review of the fourth book, City of Secrets, here.