City of swords is the last book of the Stravaganza series so far. As the fans of the series will probably be used to by now, we follow an unhappy teenager on his trips to sixteenth century Talia, where he has a mission to accomplish. This time, we get to know Laura, who cuts herself in order to feel better. It is then quite a surprise to see her transported to Fortezza, where she meets her Stravagante, a swordsmith. But in Talia, Laura has a lot to think about, as civil was is about to destroy the city, and she must chose her side before it is too late... which is not an easy task when everybody expects her to fight against a charming man.
I must start by saying that, although I enjoyed this book overall, it is definitely not the best one in the series and I was a little disappointed. The beginning was quite strange, as we met the other English Stravaganti before Laura. It was a way of changing the style a little, as Isabel, Georgia, Nick and Sky had guessed that Laura would be the one receiving the talisman, but I felt it was taking the reader’s attention off her. As the story goes on, this feeling only became stronger; I never really felt I was discovering Fortezza with Laura. I rather listened to her telling her adventures to her new friends, which made it less interesting and lively as in the previous books.
An important part of the plot takes place in England. I enjoyed this in City of Ships, but here I felt it was sometimes a little too much. However, meeting Vicky Mulholland and several other characters we know from the rest of the series was a nice experience – and turned out quite surprising in the end. What I particularly enjoyed was Laura’s problem. We know from the first few pages that she resorts to self-harming, but there is much more to that than we would expect. Mary Hoffman really developed this aspect of her personality, much more than she did with any of the other characters, which was a good surprise.
Turning to the plot itself, I found it a little too predictable. There were a few twists and turns, but they did not seem that realistic and I was not as thrilled as I normally am. Meeting the usual Stravaganti was nice again, but they had not changed a lot, which I found rather disappointing. On the other hand, having Arianna and Luciano talk about their wedding was great and it was a good strategy to maintain the reader’s attention: Will they finally manage to get married?
I have given quite a lot of negative point about City of Swords, but I do not want you to think that I did not like it or that I would not recommend it to you. It is a great story; I just felt it did not quite live up to what I expected after five successful previous books – especially the fifth one. However, if I had to give a single reason to convince you to read it, I would say: the ending. As I said before, I was not living the story with the characters, but felt I was only a spectator. The action is sometimes quite slow, but in the last few pages, the pace clearly gets quicker. And suddenly, everything is over, before you even realise it. The ending remains nevertheless open, and each reader has to wonder... Will there be a seventh book?