It’s time to pay tribute to one of the unsung heroes of my childhood book collection: City of Masks reads like The Fault in Our Stars and Outlander had a child and passed only the good genes on. There was nothing about the Stravaganza series that was ever disappointing or boring and the first journey to sixteenth century Talia, a parallel-world country similar to our Italy, was possibly the best of them all.
After acquiring an old, vibrantly covered notebook from his father’s worksite, Lucien falls asleep one night and awakes to find himself smack bang in the main square of Bellezza. Thinking it a dream, Lucien is quickly corrected by a series of accidental encounters that not only lead him to discover that he is a Stravagante – able to transport himself in time and place with the use of a talisman – but reveal a dangerous plot against Bellezza’s Duchess. Despite finding himself in the middle of all the secretive chaos, the real danger to Lucien is the leukaemia he’s battling in his reality. In Talia, he no longer feels the effects of his chemotherapy treatments and feeling whole and healthy again is a temptation that may prove to be more hazardous than the assassination attempts he finds himself mixed up in.
With action, adventure and plots constantly afoot in the streets of Bellezza, Lucien’s journey is equally breathtaking and bittersweet. The companions he collects during his trips to Talia make his ventures all that more engaging and the grand, sweeping country of Talia is almost a story element in and of itself – the customs, culture and citizens of the imaginary realm burst from the pages with startling clarity and sneakily suck you in. Lucien’s tale is just the beginning of the adventure that is this 6 book series. Each book brings a new Stravagante, a new city of Talia and new issues to the table that will keep you engulfed until the very last page.