Stravaganza is a series of novels by British writer Mary Hoffman about the adventures of young Earthlings in Talia, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Renaissance Italy. These people, called 'Stravaganti', can go to Talia while asleep by using magical talismans. Political troubles have started to brew, and the Stravaganti are caught up in the middle of it.The series was well-received by critics, though not popular. It was originally intended as a trilogy, but a fourth and now a fifth book was recently released.The series is as follows:
City of Masks, which focuses on Lucien, a cancer patient whose talisman is a marbled notebook, who visits Bellezza, the Talian version of Venice;
City of Stars, which focuses on Georgia, a girl tormented by her stepbrother whose talisman is a horse figurine, who visits Remora, the Talian version of Siena;
City of Flowers, which focuses on Sky, a teenager living with his single mother whose talisman is a perfume bottle, who visits Giglia, the Talian version of Florence;
City of Secrets, which focuses on Matt, a dyslexic young man whose talisman is a leather-bound book, who visits Padavia, the Talian version of Padua;
City of Ships, which focuses on Isabel, a girl overshadowed by her twin brother. Her talisman is a bag full of mosaic tiles, and she visits Classe, the Talian version of Ravenna; and
City of Swords, which focuses on Laura, a girl who copes with her unhappiness by self-harming. Her talisman is a letter-opening knife resembling a sword and she vists Fortezza, the Talian version of Lucca.
This series provides examples of:
Alchemy: Dr. Dethridge was an alchemist back in England before he discovered stravagation. Also, it is mentioned that Talian alchemists try to turn lead into silver, which is more valuable than gold in Talia.
Anti-Villain: Maybe they don't all quite qualify as this, but the di Chimici become a lot more human as the series progresses, and not in a Villain Decay sort of way.
Awesome Moment of Crowning: In City of Masks, Arianna is named the new Duchessa of Bellezza. In City of Ships, Filippo Nucci is elected the new Duke of Classe. In City of Swords, Lucia di Chimici becomes the Princess of Fortezza after a long and bloody siege.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Inverted: Gaetano, one of the first sympathetic di Chimici, is markedly less attractive than most of his relatives. Likewise, Falco would be a charmingly pretty little boy if he weren't horribly crippled.
Beta Couple: Georgia and Nick. Later on, Matt and Ayesha, as well as Sky and Isabel.
Big Bad Ensemble: City of Stars has two separate Big Bads who have nothing to do with each other; Niccol˛ Di Chimici and Russell, Georgia's stepbrother.
Body Double: The Duchessa uses different doubles for all the flashy ceremonies, such as the Marriage with the Sea - she began this procedure when she became pregnant with her daughter, Arianna. One such double thinks she can outsmart the Duchessa, rat out her secret, and throw her lot in with the di Chimici with no ill consequences. She's wrong.
Fate Worse Than Death: Narrowly averted in City of Secrets when the Chimici in residence attempt to exact their revenge on Luciano by drugging him and stashing him in the local university's cache of dead bodies to be publicly dissected during medical lectures.
The Good Old British Comp: All of the Earth characters study at Barnsbury Comprehensive, which also happens to be built on the site of the first stravagation, and therefore more likely to produce Stravaganti.
Grey and Grey Morality: The entire plot of Book Six is based around a dispute over the throne of the city of Fortezza between two children of the previous rulers: Ludovico, the oldest but illegitimate child and only son who bases his claim on his seniority and his belief (shared by many) that only men can rule; and Lucia, who bases her claim on her belief (also shared by many) that Ludovico's illegitimacy disqualifies him from the throne. None of their respective supporters or opponents seem to care for apparently trivial matters such as who would make a better ruler or who the city's inhabitants actually prefer.
Happily Adopted: Heartbreakingly subverted by Luciano and Falco/Nick. While they both love and are happy with their foster families, neither can stop longing for their real families, particularly Nick.
Also played straight with Arianna. Justified in that she didn't even know she was adopted until she turned sixteen.
Heel Face TurnEnrico, when he realises that he was tricked into killing his fiancÚe
Hidden in Plain Sight: Arianna hides and spends the night in the start of City Of Masks on the balcony of the Santa Maddalena Cathedral, while a massive festival is in progress — in plain sight of the massive Piazza crowded with partiers! Refuge in Audacity indeed.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In book 3, Niccolo di Chimici is killed with a poisoned rapier he was planning to use against Luciano.
Hot Mom: Silvia Bellini. In later books, Caterina di Chimici.
Moses in the Bullrushes: Arianna. Her mother could not take care of her, so she was left with her aunt and uncle and never told that she was even related to the Duchessa.
Narnia Time: Most of the time, it's a consistent one-to-one day ratio between Talia and England, with the only oddity being that day and night are switched. But from the first, we know that the timeflow is much more unstable - Doctor Dethridge, who lived in the Renaissance and was the first Stravagante, regularly gets visits from Stravaganti from modern-day England because time has flown by more quickly in England.
And this is played to its heartbreaking conclusion when Lucien's entrapment in Bellezza for about two days translates into a three-week coma in England - coinciding with a resurgence of his brain cancer. His parents, having concluded he's never waking up, decide to cut off his life support.
Purple Eyes: Arianna and the Duchessa both, which is an early clue that they're related.
Real Name as an Alias: Silvia Bellini has been the Duchessa for so long that almost nobody remembers her actual name. It makes it easy for her to pretend to be a widow in Padavia using her real name, even after she marries Rodolfo again.
Rebellious Princess: Arianna takes on the mantle of Duchessa voluntarily, but she still chafes under all the pressure and rules laid upon her in the later books.
Refuge in Audacity: Arianna's plan at the start of City of Masks involves staying in Bellezza proper on the one day when a non-Bellezzan straying on the island is punished by death. No one has broken this law for a hundred years, that she knows of, so she relies on the assumption that no one would possibly try.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Though not technically royalty, the Duchessa of Bellezza takes the welfare of the city very much to heart. Germano, the Duke of Classe in book 5, qualifies, as does Princess Lucia in book 6.
Serious Business: The Stellata horse race in the second book has the entire city obsessed every year. It's based on the real-life Palio in Siena.
Shown Their Work: There's a whole arc in City of Masks where Lucien and his parents visit the real-world Venice that pretty much exists so Hoffman can show her work.
Shrinking Violet: Georgia is a variation in that she has a lot of pent-up anger and upset beneath that shyness. Part of her development in Talia involves becoming as forceful outside as she is inside.
Isabel plays it straight; she avoids attention so she won't be compared to her talented twin brother, but feels even worse because nobody notices her. Laura may also qualify - she tries to present herself as normal as possible to conceal the fact she's self-harming. Her parents have no clue, though they worry because she avoids her friends when she's at home.
Translation Convention: In effect for the Stravaganti so that they hear people in the alternate world speaking in whatever the Stravagante's first language is.
Trapped in Another World: 'Trapped' isn't quite the word, since the Stravaganti fell asleep with their talismans, but the principle is the same - and if you lose your talisman, or die in your home world, you are trapped.
Played completely straight with Lucien at the end of his book in a scene that is pure Tear Jerker.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Gaetano and Francesca. Fortunately, their love for one another is very sincere.
The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Duchessa Silvia is this trope to the letter, even to the mask that she legally must wear as an unmarried woman. However, she does not have to worry about doubts of a woman ruler, as Bellezza would not accept anything but a female ruler.