Apr 26, 2011

Review: City of Stars by Mary Hoffman

Title: City of Stars (Stravaganza, #2)
Author: Mary Hoffman
Publication Year: 2003
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback)Amazon (Kindle)

Georgia would love nothing more than to ride horses every day and avoid her annoying stepbrother at all costs. But she could never have guessed that a tiny, antique winged horse figurine would be the key to her escape to another world and another time. When Georgia arrives in a 16th-century city called Remora, she is plunged into a dangerous and treacherous world of horse-racing, family honour and deadly rivalry. And there, as a new Stravagante, Georgia will have a dramatic and extraordinary role to play.

My two cents: This review is certainly long overdue. In this second instalment of 'Stravaganza' series, a new city and a new Stravagante are introduced. The new Stravagante, Georgia, a girl from Lucien's past, lives with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother (who would go extra-length to annoy her) and is fond of anything horses. After saving up for and purchasing a statue of a winged-horse she spotted in an antique shop, she fell asleep holding it. Upon waking up, she found herself in a stable in Remora, Talia, the equivalent of Sienna, Italy. Divided into twelve sections, each section of the city is related to a sign of zodiac and everyone in the city was buzzing with excitement for the Stellata, a horse race similar but different to the Palio, the horse race held annually in Sienna. In the stable of Twelfth of the Ram, she saw a living winged horse, the first to be born in Remora in over a century.

Georgia was reunited with Lucien (now Luciano) and had a hard time accepting the growing relationship between Luciano and the Duchessa of Belleza as she once had a crush on him. She also met other Stravaganti including the owner of Twelfth of the Ram stable where she stravagates and she befriended crippled Falco, the youngest son of Duke Niccolo of the Di Chimici's family.

This book maintains the political intrigue surrounding the Di Chimici's family and Talia's city states (in particular, Belleza). This time, the political war between the city states is apparent in the form of the Stellata. There was much lobbying and there were some who believed that the Stellata is rigged every year so that one of the city states under the direct influence of the Di Chimici would win the race. Also, a little more is revealed about the act of stravagazing. It seems that the talisman would find its way to someone who is not happy in our world. Lucien was suffering from brain cancer and Georgia is constantly being bullied by her stepbrother. Often Stravaganti find their way to Talia in times when one of the city states of Talia needs their help.

It was a bit hard getting into the story at first since I just couldn't picture how the city is divided into twelve parts despite the wonderful description by the author. Add to it, all the rivalries and alliances among the twelve parts. Each Twelfth owes allegiance to another city states of Talia though they are located in Remora. This is quite confusing and often I lost track of who are the allies and who are the rivals of each Twelfth. But, as the story progressed, things did become clearer.

Of all the characters, including those newly introduced, I found Falco very moving. The relationship between him and his brother, Gaetano reminds me of those moving stories we often heard about siblings making sacrifices for each other. The decision taken by Falco, though, have consequences on more people than just himself and not just on the lives of those from Talia.

It is easy to see the parallel between what happened to Lucien in the first book and the adventures gone through by Georgia in this one, though their adventures are different in nature. All in all, a great sequel to its first instalment.

My verdict: 4/5

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