My Reading Brain

City of Masks

By: Mary Hoffman
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Series: Stravaganza (#1)
Summary: During the day, Lucien battles cancer in his modern, normal life. But at night, he becomes a Stravagante, a time-traveler of sorts who finds himself in Belleza, a city parallel to old Venice. Befriended by a local girl and protected by an older Stravagante, Lucien uncovers a plot to murder the city's beloved ruler, the Duchessa. But to save the Duchessa and the city Lucien risks losing his only chance to return home to his family and his real life.

The well-paced, thick-with-plot story will hook the reader immediately and not let go until the superb, unexpected end. City of Masks is the first in a three-book arc from the gifted Mary Hoffman.

Review: City of Masks has a decent plot, but it’s unfocused and unrefined. The lack of good pacing and tension was the main reason I struggled to continue reading. The narrative lacks a logical conclusion and jumps between scenes without explanation. Her characters are dull, her world is contradictory, and her climax is unsatisfying because Hoffman doesn’t dwell on anything. Hoffman uses Lucian's illness as a cheap ploy to garner sympathy from the audience, which cannot work. I didn't care about any character in the book. It's hard to understand the characters' relationships because the dialogue feels forced and is usually short. The way Lucian and Arianna conversed gave me the impression that they were children instead of being teenagers.

Hoffman writes about whatever she feels like, leaving blanks. This story had no clear direction for me.

There isn’t much happening. They resolved conflicts within a few pages and with no one's involvement. I don’t understand why Hoffman didn’t just use Renascence Italy for Lucian’s escape instead of creating a parallel world. In one scene, Lucian goes to real modern-day Italy and alludes to the differences between Bellazza and Venice. They only changed the pronunciation of Italian words.

The only thing I can think of is that Hoffman underestimated her intended audience. Despite its misguided nature and rapid ending, the story is not terrible. This isn't a book aimed at teens. City of Masks intended for children.

As far as this series is concerned, I won’t continue it.