Stravaganza: City of Ships by Mary Hoffman

Stravaganza: City of Ships

Written by Mary Hoffman
Part of the Stravaganza Series

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This is a breathtaking time-travel story to a parallel world that’s packed with non-stop action, pirates and drama. It’s the fifth in the Stravaganza sequence and it will electrify and delight. Intrigue, adventure, magic and excitement are the trademark ingredients for this series and for those new to it it’s not absolutely essential to read the first four particularly as the author, Mary Hoffman has very kindly provided a snapshot of the story to date. To view all the titles click here.

Below is a list of the Stavaganza series books to date in order of publication. Just click on a title to find out more.

1) City of Masks

4) City of Secrets
5) City of Ships
6) City of Swords


Stravaganza: City of Ships by Mary Hoffman

Set in Classe (Ravenna in our world), the Stravagante is Isabel, a younger twin by a matter of minutes. Her talisman is a pouch of silver mosaic tiles and she stravagates to Classe, where she is met by Flavia, a successful female merchant who trades spices, silks, tapestries, and whose son is an outcast and a pirate. Isabel finds that Classe and Bellezza are under threat from attack by the fierce Gate people. What can she do to help save the city? This is a thrilling story packed with action, pirates and drama.

Previously, in Stravaganza ...

City of Masks

He meets Arianna, an island girl who has her own reasons for being in the lagoon city on a day which she tells Lucien could be fatally dangerous for both of them. Only she calls him Luciano, the Talian equivalent of his name. And so does the terrifying Duchessa, the elected ruler of the city, who chooses Lucien to be one of her mandoliers.

Rodolfo teaches Lucien what he calls science and Lucien knows is magic. Arianna teaches him the city. In Talia they are both vulnerable to the voracious di Chimici family and their paid assassins. Meanwhile, back in his own world, Lucien is still fighting his brain tumour.

At the climax, Luciano’s life changes for ever and so does Arianna’s.

Georgia O’Grady has been horribly bullied by her older stepbrother Russell ever since her mother met his father. Russell doesn’t hurt her physically but he pours his scorn on to her in words so spiteful and poisonous, she feels as battered as if he had punched her. Russell knows her inmost fears and insecurities and plays mercilessly on them. She is socially and emotionally retarded in his opinion – an underdeveloped girl who still loves horses and has no friends.

She finds herself in the city of Remora, in the stables of the quarter of the city known as the Ram, where a winged foal has just been born, something that happens only about once every four generations. Her Stravagante in Talia is Paolo the Horsemaster and she quickly becomes friends with his son, Cesare.

Remora, like Siena in our world, revolves around a crazy horse race where the different “contrade” or districts of the city compete against one another. Each is named after a sign of the Zodiac and Georgia soon feels enormous loyalty to the Ram, whose enemy is the Fishes. It is Cesare who teaches her all about the alliances and enmities between factions.

When Falco discovers that Georgia comes from a world and time where his injuries might be healed, he involves them all in a really dangerous plot. At the same time other people are trying to stop Cesare from riding the Ram’s entry for the Race.

City of Flowers

Skye is bi-racial, the result of his mother’s one-night stand with famous rock star Rainbow Warrior, the father Skye has never met. But his Stravagante in Giglia is Black too, Brother Sulien, the friar in charge of the pharmacy in Saint-Mary-among-the-Vines, the one-time family church of the di Chimici.

But there is a rival family called Nucci in the city and they hate the di Chimici with a passion. Skye needs a guide to Giglia and finds it in a scruffy orphan Sandro and his rescued stray dog, Fratello. He also finds a second Stravagante, Giuditta Miele, a sculptor who has been commissioned to make a statue of the new young Duchessa of Bellezza when she comes to Bellezza for the di Chimici weddings.

In the midst of all this, Skye finds time for romance – and so, surprisingly does his mother.

Luciano is now a university student, in Padavia, a city not far from Bellezza. One of his professors, Constantin, is a powerful Stravagante and runs the Scriptorium where books are printed, both official ones and secret, forbidden ones. The traveller from our world is a boy called Matt, whose problem is that he is dyslexic. Just his luck then that his talisman, a leather-bound collection of spells in a language like Latin, takes him to a place where books are made.

Two di Chimici suspect that the Stravaganti have the secret of time travel and are trying to wrest it from them so Matt, Luciano and others are in danger. The University of Padavia has an anatomy theatre which is used for dissection demonstrations and one day there is a dramatic and grisly revelation there.

Luciano, Matt, Cesare, Arianna, Rodolfo and even Enrico the Spy do their best to save the Manoush from the death penalty but meanwhile Matt has done something very stupid in his own world and the Talian Stravaganti have to save him – and his victim – from the consequences of his action.

Well, this is the new one so I shan’t say as much about it. Isabel is the younger by ten minutes of twins. Her brother Charlie is so much better at everything than she is that she tends to keep her head down and hope to be ignored.

Soon Bel is having her own adventures, in Classe, a city which is preparing for an invasion from the sea. And she can’t even swim!

Mosaics, a merchant trader, a pirate and a sea-battle, not to mention an unexpected trip to Elizabethan England and an earthquake, all give Bel a chance to impress her twin and find her own strengths.

Find out more about the thrilling Stravaganza novels: click here for the series website and here for author Mary Hoffman's own webpage !


Praise for City of Masks:'A poignant, touching and exciting novel ... without doubt a masterwork of contemporary children's literature.' Edgardo Zaghini, Booktrust

City of Flowers: 'I was barely allowed to finish it before my god-daughter snatched it away with breathless anticipation. "It's so real!" she drooled !' Independent

City of Secrets: 'An absolute triumph. Writing like this makes a parallel situation appear in the mind as more real than reality itself.' School Librarian

About the Author

Mary Hoffman

Mary Hoffman has written around 90 books for children. Amazing Grace, commended for the Kate Greenaway medal, has sold over 1.5 million copies. Its sequel, Grace & Family, was among Junior Education 's Best Books of 1995 and shortlisted for the Sheffield Libraries Book Award 1996. Mary lives in Oxfordshire.

You can read her contributions to The History Girls blog by clicking here.

Mary Hoffman's Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me:

I didn't change my surname when I got married.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a garage mechanic.

My husband is half-Indian. His mother was a Parsee, born in Bangalore.

I am learning Italian and would love to have a house in Italy.

I never wear or own anything blue.

Photo by Jess Barber (©Jess Barber)

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Book Info


368 pages


Mary Hoffman
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Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date

1st March 2010




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