Thursday, September 8, 2011

City of Ships

Title:               City of Ships
Category:       Fantasy
Grade:            6-10
Author:          Mary Hoffman
Publisher:       Bloomsbury
:              New York
Date:               2010
Pages:             348

Hoffman returns to her alternative world of Talia in this fifth installment of the Stravaganza series.  Isabel is the new unhappy teen, chosen to bear the talisman and travel nightly between her world and the city of Classe, a city paralleling ancient Ravenna.  Desperate to outshine her twin brother at something, Isabel stumbles into a new plot by the di Chimici family to elist the aid of the savage Gate people and attack both Classe and the port city of Bellezza.  As preparing for the coming battle fills her nights, Isabel begins spending her days with the former Stravaganti, all still students at her school.  When the father of stravagation, William Dethridge, discovers a way to allow a Stravaganti’s talisman to take him or her to any city and not just one, the Stravaganti begin to return to Talia with Isabel to aid in the fight against the di Chimici.  In the end, however, it is Isabel who must call upon both her new-learned skills and the bravery she did not know she had to turn the tide of battle and rescue her brother, who has unwittingly followed her into Talia.

The Stravaganza series has long been a favorite, and this book does not disappoint.  Though a danger in open-ended series is frequently the author’s eventual lack of a truly good story to tell, Hoffman continues to skirt this pitfall as of now.  Fans of the series will enjoy meeting the new Stravagante and will especially like revisiting their favorite protagonists and cities of the past as Isabel travels to the settings of all the prior stories.  However, new readers should still be able to follow the story with a minimum of difficulty.  City of Ships contains the same fast-paced action and robust adventure we have come to expect from this series.  However, after five books, this series would strongly benefit from a wrap-up installment and a clear ending.  Though Ships was still a very nice story, it is beginning to show the signs of a series losing its direction.  The removal of the restriction on traveling to one city, the return of all the Stravaganti, and truthfully, the lack of a truly critical role for Isabel in the final conflict render this novel weaker than its initial counterparts, although still enjoyable.  While I would recommend this story to fans of the series, it would benefit as a whole from being closed definitively (and triumphantly, we hope) in a final book.


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