Friday, 22 June 2012

Stravaganza: City of Swords by Mary Hoffman (Young Adult, Historical)

July 2012 Bloomsbury
356 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: time-travel, self-harm secrets/mixed emotion/perception/loved one's reaction/never being truly free from it, solitude at school, the joy of friendship, revisions & exams, experience at emergency departments, specialist help for mental health issues, anguish, finding yourself, dangers lurking behind even simple smiles, escape & evasion, attacking for defence, gaining confidence, awesome costumes, blooming mild teen romance, some laughs and tears

Summary from Bloomsbury
Desperately unhappy, Laura has resorted to secretly self-harming. But Laura is a Stravagante, somebody who can travel in time and space. When she finds her talisman, a small silver dagger, she stravagates with it to sixteenth-century Fortezza, a town similar to Lucca in Italy, where she meets her Stravagante, who is a swordsmith. But Laura also meets the charming and attractive Ludo, and falls for him. Their love for each other is tested when Ludo lays claim to the crown of Fortezza, and Laura finds herself fighting on the side of the Stravaganti opposing him . . .
Nayuleska's thoughts
This is the first book in the series which I've read, and I'm definitely putting them on my wish list. I've recently found out it is the last in the series - noooo! I always enjoy time travel especially in Italy, and enjoyed the unique way that Laura and other stravagants travel. 

I was more intrigued about how the issue of self-harm was dealt with. It's a serious issue that affects many people, not just the person but their family and friends. I think it's important to raise awareness, to show that speaking out to protect someone is the best thing to do. It takes a lot of care and support for self-harmers to heal; Laura finds that from her new friends & the situations she gets in which warrent her to keep living, making her feel worthy. 

The world she inhabits at night is the one where she finds what I'd say is a soul mate, and she would do anything to keep him safe. It was a real joy to watch Laura gain self-esteem, unravel her habit of keeping secrets & not sharing her feelings. 

There was a fair amount of back story, and lots of names which I struggled to fully remember at 4am, but being a new reader didn't matter. I enjoyed the intrigue, the subterfuge and the risky journeys Laura goes on. The reason this gets 9/10 is partly format: I found it nearly impossible to read the slanting script used in for page numbers. The second thing was that occasionally it felt like the emotions of others when they found out about Laura's self-harm could have been examined a little more. It would have been good to see more of Laura's unease of when it is all out in the open. That's not to say those issues aren't in there, it's just that in several places I sat thinking 'What? Where's the rest of the thoughts?' The reason why Laura self-harms totally blew me away.

Definitely check out more in this awesome series on Mary's website.

Suggested read
For another fun Venetian tale check out  Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

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