City of stars takes us to sixteenth-century Talia again, but this time we visit Remora, a city similar to Siena.
Georgia loves horses, but she is unhappy because her stepbrother persecutes her. The day she saves up enough money and manages to buy the model of a winged horse, she cannot imagine that it will transport her to another world which reminds her of Italy, but has evolved in quite a different way. There, in a city full of intrigues and dangers, she must find what her mission as a Stravagante is before it is too late.
Although the concept is the same as in the first book of the series (and the following ones) – an unhappy twenty-first century teenager who finds themselves sent to Talia by their talisman and has to accomplish a mission – the story is very different, and even more thrilling. A different setting, new characters amongst the ones we already know, more intrigues...
Horses are central in this book, not only because they are what Georgia loves most. In Remora, they are extremely important and every year a famous race takes place, the Stellata, which can be compared to the Palio our Siena. The way Remora is organised is extremely interesting because it mixes reality with belief, history and magic, and everything revolves around horses and the preparation of the Stellata. We are drawn into this strange universe and introduced to several Remorans such as Cesare and Paolo.
At the same time, other characters from the first book reappear –and their meeting could be full of surprises. However, the plot is understandable even for those who have not read it – I actually started the series by City of stars – because the main events and concepts are repeated as an introduction to Georgia in Talia. We also get to know better an extremely important family: the di Chimici. The first pages in which their names appear might be quite difficult to understand to start with, but there is no need to worry about forgetting who they are as the protagonists will later meet with each of them – and develop relationships from hatred to friendship.
Again, the descriptions are vivid and full of colours, sounds and emotions. It is interesting to meet new characters, but also to see how the ones we already know have developed since their adventures in Belleza finished. We follow the Stravaganti and their friends of course, but also their enemies – most of the di Chimici and their spy Enrico – as well as more neutral characters, for example the Manoush. I liked the fact that, contrary to many children or young adult novels, there are not only ‘good’ and ‘bad characters’, although they are sometimes a little simplified and predictable.
After the introduction, the story unfolds quickly, full of twists and turns – which are most of the time unexpected. In the middle of the court intrigues, love stories develop or evolve, as well as friendships. We get to know more historical details – be it because of the comparisons between Italy and Talia and their differences – and more about the Stravaganti, which are a really fascinating brotherhood. I particularly enjoy the character of Rodolfo, who seems very human and realistic.
City of Stars is the first book I had read of the Stravaganza series – quite a long time ago – and probably my favourite one. With scenes full of tension, the plot is well built and the ending quite surprising. The amount of historical references is incredible, as well as more hidden morals and theories, and every re-reading will bring some more details into light.
For his 17th birthday Matt's great aunt gives him a book token. He doesn't understand why, since he's dyslexic and books are the last thing he wants. However, after school that same day on his way home he passes by an old antiques shop and feels intrigued by an old leather-bound book in the window. He feels as if the book were 'talking' to him. He buys it with his token and less than twenty four hours later discovers that that is no ordinary old book. It's a talisman that turns him into a stravagante, a person with the ability to travel in space and time and appear in Talia (an equivalent of 16th century Italy) every time he falls asleep with it.
So does Stravaganza City of Secrets begin. Like in the previous three books in the series the young stravagante must carry out serious and dangerous task in Padavia (its current equivalent being Padova) and in order to accomplish it he'll need his new friends in both worlds, those in his high school in Islington (stravaganti in City of Stars and City Flowers) and those in Padavia to help him.
Since Stravaganza City of Secrets is the fourth book in the series I'd recommend that those who're intrigued by it read the first three first. It is true that the books can be read individually but the references are such that I think it's better to start from the beginning. This is a book for those who love time travel. The bits when Matt was in Padavia were the ones I enjoyed the most. I liked the descriptions of 16th century Italy and imagining what it must be like to be able to land so far back in time just like that....Continua
This is the first book of the Stravaganza series (I think there are 5 books so far). Although they're not too well-known, nothing like Harry Potter or the vampire sagas, I find Stravaganza City of Masks should definitely be as popular. It's well-written, fun and a really exciting read.
The book's set both in contemporary England and in an equivalent of medieval Venice. It's all about time-and-space-travel, loads of adventures, ancient traditions and the life of a sick teenager in modern Britain who discovers he can actually get better... somewhere (and somewhen) else.
This book's ideal if you're travelling to Venice and want your children to "start getting ready" for the holidays.
The Stravaganza trilogy is clearly meant for younger readers. The characters, the plot, and basically everything has been made quite simple and easy to understand. The books could almost be described as naïve, but I like them anyway. They were my favourites when I was about 13 and now they make me feel a bit nostalgic. Besides, even now the parallel world of Talia is interesting enough to keep me glued to the books!...Continua