Lucien is terribly terribly sick, from both the tumor in his brain and the chemotherapy that is battling it. Then his father starts to tell him about the magical city of Venice, and he starts to have incredibly vivid dreams about a city that both is and is not Venice.
Arianna's lifelong dream is to become a mandolier, but as a girl, she is forbidden. She hatches a cunning plot to sneak into the mandolier's school dressed as a boy. But her discovery of a foreign stranger will throw her plans into chaos.
Silvia, the Duchesse of Bellezza, is struggling to keep her city independent of the Reman Empire. But she has made a mistake that may prove fatal, both to herself and to her beloved home.
This book is good - engrossing and interesting, with a fine attention to detail. Those who like the idea of alternate dimensions and history should enjoy it. But Hoffman does not compare to other YA writers such as Robin McKinley, Sharon Shinn, and Dianna Wynne Jones. I recommend this book to those who have read YA fantasy exhaustively and want something new. For those who are new to the genre, I would suggest one of the other writers instead. Three stars.