Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young actor discovers a magical world behind the masks of the city of Venice.


In the captivating novel City of Masks by Mary Hoffman, readers are transported to the enchanting city of Bellezza. This thrilling fantasy tale follows the adventures of Lucien, a young English boy, who discovers a mysterious mask that grants him the ability to travel between parallel worlds. As Lucien delves deeper into the secrets of Bellezza, he unravels a web of political intrigue, magical wonders, and personal identity.

Brief Synopsis

Set in the Renaissance period, City of Masks takes place in the fictional city of Bellezza, located in the Venetian lagoon. The city is known for its vibrant masquerade culture, where masks are not only worn for festivities but also hold magical properties. Lucien, a twelve-year-old boy from England, travels to Bellezza with his father for a research project on the composer Monteverdi.

During his stay, Lucien stumbles upon a hidden room in the Palazzo Ucelli, where he discovers an ancient mask, the Mask of Scorpio. Little does he know that this mask has the power to transport him to an alternate version of Bellezza, known as the City of Masks. In this parallel world, Lucien assumes the identity of a young nobleman named Luciano and becomes embroiled in a dangerous game of politics and power.

Main Characters

Lucien/LucianoThe protagonist of the story. He is a young English boy who discovers the Mask of Scorpio and gains the ability to travel between worlds.
AriannaA girl from Bellezza who befriends Lucien/Luciano and helps him navigate the treacherous world of politics.
RodolfoA powerful nobleman and antagonist of the story. He seeks to control the City of Masks and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
MonteverdiA renowned composer in both worlds, who plays a significant role in the plot.

Summary of Different Story Points

Chapters 1-5: The Discovery of the Mask

In the early chapters, Lucien arrives in Bellezza with his father and explores the city's rich history and culture. He stumbles upon the Palazzo Ucelli and discovers the hidden room containing the Mask of Scorpio. Lucien puts on the mask out of curiosity and is transported to the City of Masks, where he assumes the identity of Luciano.

Chapters 6-10: Life in the City of Masks

Lucien/Luciano adjusts to his new life in the parallel world, learning about the political factions and power struggles in Bellezza. He befriends Arianna, who becomes his guide and ally. Lucien/Luciano attends masquerade balls, meets influential figures, and becomes entangled in the machinations of Rodolfo, who seeks to control the city.

Chapters 11-15: Unveiling the Truth

As Lucien/Luciano delves deeper into the secrets of Bellezza, he uncovers a plot to assassinate Monteverdi, who holds the key to maintaining the balance between the two worlds. Lucien/Luciano and Arianna work together to protect Monteverdi and prevent Rodolfo from gaining ultimate power.

Chapters 16-20: The Final Confrontation

The climax of the story culminates in a thrilling showdown between Lucien/Luciano, Arianna, and Rodolfo. With the help of their allies, they expose Rodolfo's plans and restore order to Bellezza. Lucien/Luciano ultimately returns to his own world but carries the memories and lessons of his time in the City of Masks.

Main Events

  1. Lucien discovers the Mask of Scorpio and is transported to the City of Masks.
  2. Lucien assumes the identity of Luciano and becomes embroiled in the political intrigues of Bellezza.
  3. Lucien befriends Arianna, who becomes his guide and ally.
  4. Lucien uncovers a plot to assassinate Monteverdi and works to protect him.
  5. Lucien and Arianna confront Rodolfo and expose his plans.
  6. Lucien returns to his own world, carrying the knowledge and experiences from his journey.

Themes and Insights

Identity and Self-Discovery: Lucien's journey in the City of Masks allows him to explore different aspects of his identity and question who he truly is. Through his experiences, he learns the importance of embracing one's true self.

Power and Politics: The novel explores the corrupting nature of power and the lengths individuals will go to gain and maintain it. It also delves into the complexities of political maneuvering and the impact it can have on society.

Friendship and Loyalty: The bond between Lucien and Arianna illustrates the power of friendship and loyalty in overcoming challenges. Their alliance proves pivotal in their quest to protect Bellezza and its inhabitants.

Reader's Takeaway

City of Masks is a captivating fantasy novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through parallel worlds filled with magic, political intrigue, and personal growth. The story not only entertains but also explores themes of identity, power, and friendship. It serves as a reminder of the importance of staying true to oneself and the value of genuine connections.


Mary Hoffman's City of Masks offers a mesmerizing tale of adventure and self-discovery set in the enchanting city of Bellezza. Through Lucien's journey, readers are transported to a world of masks, magic, and political intrigue. This captivating story leaves a lasting impression, reminding us of the power of identity, friendship, and the pursuit of truth.

City of Masks FAQ

  1. What is 'City of Masks' about?

    'City of Masks' is a young adult fantasy novel set in the city of Bellezza, a place filled with mystery and intrigue. It follows the story of Lucien, a young boy who discovers a magical mask that transports him to the city of Renaissance Italy.

  2. Who is the author of 'City of Masks'?

    The author of 'City of Masks' is Mary Hoffman. She is a British author known for her children's and young adult books.

  3. What age group is 'City of Masks' suitable for?

    'City of Masks' is suitable for readers aged 12 and above. It appeals to young adult readers who enjoy fantasy and historical fiction.

  4. Is 'City of Masks' part of a series?

    Yes, 'City of Masks' is the first book in the 'Stravaganza' series by Mary Hoffman. There are several more books in the series that continue the adventures of different characters in different cities.

  5. What is the setting of 'City of Masks'?

    'City of Masks' is primarily set in Bellezza, a fictional city inspired by Renaissance Italy. The author beautifully describes the architecture, culture, and atmosphere of the city, immersing readers in its unique ambiance.

  6. Are there magical elements in 'City of Masks'?

    Yes, 'City of Masks' features magical elements. The protagonist, Lucien, discovers a magical ability to travel between his contemporary world and the city of Bellezza using a mystical mask.

  7. What themes are explored in 'City of Masks'?

    'City of Masks' explores themes such as identity, time travel, friendship, and the power of imagination. It delves into the concept of escaping reality and finding oneself in a different world.

  8. Is 'City of Masks' suitable for fans of historical fiction?

    Yes, 'City of Masks' is suitable for fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in Renaissance Italy. The book incorporates historical elements, culture, and events, providing an engaging blend of fantasy and history.

  9. Does 'City of Masks' have a strong female protagonist?

    While the protagonist of 'City of Masks' is a young boy named Lucien, the book does feature strong female characters who play significant roles in the story. They contribute to the overall narrative and add depth to the plot.

  10. What is the reading level of 'City of Masks'?

    'City of Masks' is written for a middle-grade to young adult audience. It is accessible to readers with an intermediate reading level and above.