Sarah's Stars

Mary Hoffman. Stravaganza: City of Flowers
Bloomsbury  $16.95  ISBN 0-7475-7818-4  489 pg.
Reviewed by Emma, Age 13

When Sky woke, he was not in his bedroom but somewhere that looked like a monk's cell. There was a cross on the whitewashed wall and a wooden prayer desk and he was lying on a sort of hard cot. The bottle was still in Sky's hand and the room was filled with the wonderful scent of flowers, but he knew it wasn't coming from the bottle.

City of Flowers is the third book in the Stravaganza series. In each of the books, a teen discovers an object that can transport them to the alternate world of Talia, which is a lot like 16th century Italy. In Talia they find adventure, danger, love, and a new life for themselves. They also meet other Stravaganti, and form a brotherhood to protect Talians and their secrets. Each book takes place in a different Talian city-state.

In Giglia, the City of Flowers, Brother Sulien, a Stravagante and chemist-monk meets Sky. As Sky helps Sulien in his daily work in the pharmacy, he learns about the di Chimici, the wealthiest and most powerful family in the city, and about their enemies, the Nucci. In a few months time, all of the di Chimici will be gathering together in one city. Will the Nucci try something? Can the Stravaganti stop them?

The author of the Stravaganza series, Mary Hoffman, lives in Oxfordshire, England, where she attends classes in Italian literature (and writes it, too!). She also produces Armadillo, an online children’s review magazine. Before writing City of Flowers, Ms Hoffman spent a month in Florence, the Italian equivalent of Talian Giglia. City of Flowers has 489 pages of adventure and fantasy. I would recommend it and the Stravaganza series for ages 13 and up.

This series hasn't won any awards yet, but it is the absolute best I have read in this genre. It's really exciting and suspenseful, with a little bit of romance and a few shady characters thrown in.

I would love to go to Talia someday and experience everything there: all the mystery and magic of another world, in another time. Then I would like to go to Italy and see the similarities and differences. After that, I would like to reread the whole wonderful series again, and get everything out of it that I didn't get the first time. I give Stravaganza: City of Flowers and the whole series five stars!


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