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City of Masks

(Stravaganza #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  15,106 ratings  ·  624 reviews
Lucien is seriously ill but his life is transformed when an old Italian notebook gives him the power to become a stravagante, a time traveller with access to 16th century Italy. He wakes up in Bellezza (Venice) during carnival time and meets Arianna, a girl his own age who is disguised as a boy in the hope of being selected as one of the Duchessa's mandoliers. Arianna ...more
Paperback, 345 pages
Published September 9th 2004 by Bloomsbury (first published December 8th 2002)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,106 ratings  ·  624 reviews


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Nataliya
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Cute. That a the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this book. Cute and mostly harmless. Adorable and sweet, but unfortunately just not too memorable. Like a decent fast food meal, it's satisfying but not too nutritious.

This is a story of a teenage boy dying from cancer in contemporary England, who accidentally discovers a way to travel to an alternate reality that closely resembles medieval Venice. He makes friends with a powerful scientist-magician and a perky tomboy-girl, foils a
...more
Katerina Kondrenko
7.5 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog
Living A Thousand Lives
(please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Short-Soundtrack:
Nilda Fernandez – L'invitation à Venise
Paul Cardall – The Traveler
Lucas Vidal – New Found Life

Genre: AU, historical-fantasy, teen-ish YA
Stuff: time-travels, AU-Italy, 16th century, cancer
WOW: world-building
POV: 3rd-person, multi
Love-Geometry: none and romance is quite
...more
Alice Radwell
Unfortunately, this is another example of a great concept ruined by bad storytelling. Our 'protagonist' (and I use that lightly) is Lucian, a boy with cancer who discovers he can travel to a different world (a pseudo-Venice as it were) through the acquisition of a magical notebook. However, this ability is never really the foundation of the plot; instead, Miss Hoffman tends to write where the wind takes her, forming a mix-match of elements that are never deeply explored, into a plot sequence ...more
Marnie  (Enchanted Bibliophile)
2017 Reading Challenge
This year I'm doing a Reading Challenge; so I have 26 books with specific subjects that I need to read.
Book 24: A book set somewhere you really want to visit

It's been long since a dream for me to visit Venice. As a little girl I was always mesmerized by the beauty of its watery streets, colorful city scape and mosaics. This wanderlust have not since diminish.

City of Masks gave me an opportunity to visit not only Venice(Italy) but also its counter part - Bellezza(Talia).
The country of Talia is
...more
Snoobles Mcgee
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a book from my childhood (circa age 11) that I am so happy to have picked up again now! I'm not even really that interested in Italy, but I certainly dig the idea of inter-dimensional space and time travel! I'm re-reading all of the books in the Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman in accordance to the release of the newest sequel, "City of Sercrets". So far, I've read City of Masks and I started City of Stars last night. This is, as I recall, the best book in the series as of yet. ...more
Faye, la Patata
Jan 25, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish
DNF at 22%

I was very excited to start this one because one of my all-time favorite concepts is TIME TRAVEL. There's nothing better than the fascination one gets when they find themselves in another place, in another time, be it in the future or in the past. I love that sense of awe and wonder characters get in such books. I think it's related to my love for both history and traveling, so you really can't blame me for the major excitement I had prior to reading this book. And I guess that's why
...more
Renee Godding
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Krystal109
Sep 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Summary
(view spoiler)
...more
PurplyCookie
In modern-day London, Lucien Mulholland undergoes chemotherapy treatments due to the cancer plaguing his body, but when he falls asleep clutching a mysterious book his father has given him, he is transported, or "stravagated," to an enchanting 16th-century Venice-like city called Bellezza, in the country Talia.

Lucien can return only if he can get hold of the book again while thinking of Belleza. In this colorful other world, rich with court intrigues and magic, he feels vibrantly alive, as
...more
Arielle Walker
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-unusual
recently re-read this series for the hundredth (or so) time, and once again the story did not fail to draw me in. Original, fascinating, exciting - love it.
Cait
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love. So much love. STRAVAGANZA: CITY OF MASKS was such a surprise. I read the summary, and was like “yea, it sounds good”, but oh man…it was so much more than good. This book had me trapped in its story from the first word and I was so content by the end of the epilogue. Happy little sigh and clutching the book to my chest? Yupp, that was me.

Basically, our main character Lucien is bedridden from chemo treatments to try and cure his brain cancer. His father gives him a book, and suddenly when he
...more
Shawne
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy fans
Recommended to Shawne by: Jet
Shelves: fiction
A heady blend of historical and science fiction, magic and mayhem, City Of Masks is the first in a very promising series about time travellers known as Stravanganti who can travel from our world to Talia, a country much like our own Italy and yet with its own completely different history and traditions. For all that this is essentially fantasy for kids and teenagers, Hoffman has created a fantastic blend of court intrigue (the Duchessa who helms the water-bound state of Bellezza is a ...more
The Book Queen
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Like all the others, this is one is beautiful, but I think this one affected me more emotionally than some of the others. I nearly cried several times and I love it just as much now as I did when I first read it about two years and a half years ago.
Lucie P
Aug 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book was a disappointment. The story is childish and unrealistic – in the bad way. The main idea is not very original, the characters don’t read like actual, complex people, the plot is quite predictable. I finished the book, but it was boring, even annoying towards the end.
Ann
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
My eight year old self loved this book and series.
Becky
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-picks
City of Masks is a wonderful story which intricately weaves the present world with a parallel fantasical historical world. This is every bit my favourite type of story and it was a delight to read.

Lucien lives in modern day England but his life is marked by his illness. He has cancer and at the beginning of the story he is undergoing chemotherapy to treat the tumour. Arianna lives in Talia, a parallel universe for want of a better description, which has a feel of 16th century Italy but has its
...more
Auntie Terror
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
The book has a beautiful setting (something like an unspecifically "historicised" version of Venice), likable enough characters, and not even a bad plot as such. So why did it only receive two stars?
Because it was boring and extremely predictable to me (and rather too soppy in the end). Which is what I give two stars for.
The problem is that it adhered to basically all the unwritten rules of how YA fantasy fiction works while not having a storyline or characters quite "new"/intriguing enough to
...more
Sesana
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
The Stravaganza series is based on a really interesting fantasy concept: a select few people can travel between two worlds, the world as we know it and an alternate version of Renaissance Italy. The action takes place in another Venice, called Bellezza. This is the stravagation the series title refers to. It's a great idea, but it really could have used a bit more development. The whole book, in fact, could have used a bit more development.

The book mainly follows two main characters, Lucien and
...more
Sarah
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Masked delights:

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
...more
Rebecca
This book was an excellent and gripping read with great characters and a new and original story. I have loved reading this book and it is a new favourite but I'm trying to be way less liberal with my five star reviews so it only gets four.

The main characters are Arianna and Lucien; Arianna is a girl who lives near to the city of Masks (Bellezza), sick of the rules imposed against her gender and breaks the rules entering the City of Masks on a day when she isn't supposed to. There she meets
...more
Misty
This hit on some MAJOR pet peeves for me, so even though I saw potential in some respects, I gave up.
Pauline Zander
I love this series!
Megan Lewis
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
As good as this book was (intriguing plot, interesting characters, etc.), there were a few things that irked me.

1. To show that one particular character spoke with an accent, all of the words he spoke were in this awful old, stilted, misspelled English. It RUINED the flow of the story for me. I recall one of my best English profs in university saying that good writing has no need to misspell words to convey how a person speaks. Writing misspelled words tells the reader how they should interpret
...more
Brooke Carter
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my favourite book as child, and it still holds up as a good read. I found it initially difficult to get into because the language is very simple, and jarring after reading more adult novels, but I quickly became accustomed to it.

The plot can be predictable at times, but more in a good way, than bad. Each scene is interesting and adds to the story, and there are different levels of clues that can be found for younger and older readers.

I like that Bellezza is based on Venice and a certain
...more
Blu Jay
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of my favorites in high school, reading it again was fascinating. the different style of writing with many different perspectives and foreshadowing was a bit of a brain stretch, but I needed it to distract my busy mind. love the rest of the series too
Sarah
Lucien Mulholland has terminal cancer. He's always tired, his body is weak, his thick black hair has fallen out, and he can't play the violin anymore.

With little to cheer him up in his last days, Lucien is given an antique notebook - a very old antique, as in Renaissance Italian. Falling asleep with the notebook in his hand, he is transported to a magical place that is and yet isn't sixteenth-century Venice.

While he was terribly sick in England, Lucien is healthy and vital in this other world.
...more
✿ Jenna ✿
OMG it took me a lifetime to read this book

RTC
...more
Stephanie C
The descriptions were REALLY vivid, which I loved, but I still had a difficult time getting through this one. Maybe because I read the sequel first and already knew what was going to happen. But I'm sort of glad I started with book 2 because I don't think book 1 on its own would have been enough to keep me going and by now I'm half-way through book 3 and rather enjoying it, so...
Krista
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Totally enjoyable read. There were a few parts that were a bit unbelievable or too convenient, but it was fun and I would like to continue the series.
Sara Verboom
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book when I was a kid. The writing was quick and easy, which makes it the perfect read for children. The story was exciting and quick paced, so getting lost in this story was a given. Very nice book and I will always recommend it to kids who'd like to go on an adventure.
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See also works published under Mary Lassiter

Mary Hoffman is a bestselling British author and reviewer, born in 1945. She is a true enthusiast of Italy and spends a lot of her time there, which shows in her Stravaganza novels: a series currently in publication. In total, she has written over 80 books, including the aforementioned Stravaganza series and the bestselling picture book, Amazing Grace.
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Other books in the series

Stravaganza (6 books)
  • City of Stars (Stravaganza, #2)
  • City of Flowers (Stravaganza, #3)
  • City of Secrets (Stravaganza, #4)
  • City of Ships (Stravaganza, #5)
  • City of Swords (Stravaganza, #6)
“I hardly think a girl is much of a threat. I presume you searched her for weapons? But if she attempts to suffocate me with her straw mattress, I promise to call out for help.” 55 likes
“If I had known, do you think I should have let her get away with this mad plan? That I should have let her rob me of my child? No, I should have taken you myself and hidden with you in some far-off land and never seen her again rather than agree to such an unnatural scheme” 21 likes
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