Stravaganza, Part One: City of Masks
by Mary Hoffman
In our world, in present-day London, a boy named Lucien Mulholland is fighting a battle with cancer. The chemotherapy alone is almost killing him, and he spends a lot of time at home, tired, weak, and bald. But whenever he falls asleep with a certain notebook in his hands, Lucien finds himself in a strange, parallel-world version of 17th century Venice. A place where Lucien seems solid enough, though he has no shadow.
In that world, Venice is called Bellezza, and unmarried women over 16 are required by law to wear masks, including the Duchessa, who both rules and personifies the beautiful, floating city. In that world, all of northern Talia (what we would call Italy), except Bellezza, is controlled by the conniving di Chimici family. And Lucien, suddenly appearing out of a very different, future world, may be the key to whether Bellezza falls to the di Chimicis as well.
Lucien learns that he is a type of traveler called a Stravagante. Their discipline, linked to what our world calls alchemy, was started by a man from Elizabethan England who is still living at the time of Luciens adventure, thanks to the unstable way time flows between the two worlds. Now, Lucien has a double life, enjoying daytimes in Bellezza while his body sleeps through the night back at home. And his adventure in Bellezza soon begins to consume even his waking life in 21st century London, as he helps foil assassination plots, falls in love with an audacious island girl, and makes both friends and enemies in high places. But as he is increasingly torn between his concerned parents and the thrills and beauties of stravagating to Bellezza, a final, tragic test will prove whether or not Lucien can balance both lives.
This sumptuous, exciting, and emotionally engaging tale is an auspicious beginning for a series that continues in Part Two: City of Stars.
Recommended Age: 13+
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