Tuesday, 20 April 2010

City of Ships by Mary Hoffman

March 2010, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
368 Pages, Paperback
Review Copy 
Children's Fantasy
Cushions: 4
Daggers: 4 
Smiles: 3 
Paperclips: 3

Gerry's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥

Summary from PUBLISHER

The much anticipated fifth title in the bestselling Stravaganza Sequence

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? A thrilling story packed with action, pirates and drama.

I started this book a little anxiously as my daughter is a big fan of the Stravaganza books. If I didn't enjoy it then how would I fare at home? It must also be considered that I hadn't read any of the first 4 Stravaganza books, although she has read all 4.

We meet Isabel who is studying for her exams and has few friends at school. She finds the velvet bag and is whipped off to Talia where she starts her adventure but on returning to modern day life she suddenly has friends and a very active social life. She meets the other stravaganti and starts an adventure that sees her pitched into the middle of a ferocious and bloody sea battle.

The violence and mayhem is touched upon delicately and leaves the reader feeling sufficiently remote to enjoy the action without being terrified by it.

The book earns the 'paperclips' because we see Isabel go from an invisible in a crowd teenager to a popular friend in a way that surprised me as a reader.

Just a couple of points though. Throughout the reading I was aware I was reading a children's book but I am told that these books are aimed at a '14 year old called Laura'. Coincidentally my daughter's name is not Laura and she read it after me and thoroughly enjoyed it and will review it for herself, and coincidentally she's not yet 14 either!

May I stress that I DID enjoy the book, although I am not a '14 year old  girl called Laura' either.

The other point is that having read it I have no desire to read the first 4 books now, which is a shame but there are so many 'splot poilers' (a term concocted during our recent holiday) that I feel I know the outlines and characters too well. I am currently reading another fantasy out of sequence and that has references to previous books in such a way as to say 'Go on - find it - read it!'. I STRONGLY recommend reading these books in sequence for the best enjoyment.

I would recommend this book to all children who like fantasy or who would like to try fantasy. Adults can enjoy it, as I did, but it is primarily a children's book.

The author can be found at http://www.maryhoffman.co.uk/
Other reading I would recommend is The Land of Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer.

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