Mary Hoffman is English; she was born in a railroad town, but moved to London when she was quite small. She has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge and a diploma in linguistics from the University College of London. Just after that, in 1970, she started writing children’s books; to date she has published around eighty of them, mostly shorter works. The Stravaganza series contains her longest works to date. She is married; her husband is half-Indian, and of their three daughters, one (Rhiannon Lassiter) is a published author. In her spare time, she takes Italian classes, presumably at least somewhat as research for this series, at Oxford.

Lucien Mulholland is a fifteen-year-old twenty-first-century English boy, who is unfortunately dying from a brain tumor. Arianna is a fifteen-year-old sixteenth-century Talian girl living in an alternate universe where Remus founded Italy instead of Romulus. The connection? A journal, that allows Lucien to travel in his sleep from England, where he is doing poorly, to Talia, specifically Bellezza (an alternate Venice), where he is hale and healthy. Arianna wants nothing so much as to be a mandolier (gondolier), despite her gender, so she sneaks into town for the trials. There, she meets Lucien, recently traveled and confused, and they get caught up in the politics and plotting of the time. The Di Chimici (Medici) family wants nothing so much as to kill Bellezza’s Duchessa — can two teenagers help stop that from happening? (more…)