The characters

City of Masks List of Characters


Lucien Mulholland is fifteen years old when the story begins. He is the only child of Victoria (Vicky) and David Mulholland and is named after Lucian Freud, Vicky?s favourite painter, but spelt in the French way because the Mulhollands honeymooned in Paris. They live in Islington, North London, and Lucien attends Barnsbury Comprehensive School.

His mother teaches the violin, which Lucien plays in the school orchestra. His father salvages architectural features from houses. At the beginning of the book Stravaganza: City of Masks, Lucien is being treated for a malignant brain tumour and is receiving chemotherapy.

In Talia, where he stravagates to the beautiful city of Bellezza, Lucien becomes Luciano, the handsome young apprentice of the scholar, Senator and magician Rodolfo. He meets Arianna and learns his way about the city, before being plunged into a series of dangerous adventures involving assassins, political intrigues and the secret of stravagation itself.


Arianna Gasparini is introduced as a fifteen-year-old girl, the youngest child of Valeria and Gianfranco, who live on the island of Torrone. She has two older brothers, Tommaso and Angelo, who are fishermen on Merlino. Known as the ?Figlia dell?Isola?, daughter of the island, Arianna is frustrated by her life on Torrone, where there are no other children, and yearns for adventure.

She has planned to pass herself off as a boy and present herself at the Scuola Mandoliera to train as a mandolier but her mission is thwarted by discovering a strange boy in the Piazza Maddalena on the Forbidden Day, when it is death to be in Bellezza for those not born in the city.

Arianna loves Bellezza and her favourite place there is the museum in the great Basilica to Maria Maddalena. She is not looking forward to being sixteen and having to wear the mask, which she thinks is a barbarous custom the present Duchessa should put a stop to.


Rodolfo Rossi was the youngest of three handsome brothers to present themselves to the Duchessa to train as mandoliers. She took a fancy to all three of them but it was Rodolfo who won her heart. She paid for him to study at the university in Padavia, then set him up with a finely-equipped laboratory in the palazzo next to the Ducal one. There is a secret passage, which he made, from his chambers to hers.

Rodolfo is a Stravagante, trained by William Dethridge and ready to take Lucien on as an apprentice. He took Lucien?s talisman to our world. He is fanatically loyal to the Duchessa and loves her, but is not blind to her defects. As well as being a Stravagante, he is the Duchessa?s most valued Senator and a calming influence on her, though he is five years younger than her.

The Duchessa

Sylvia Bellini became Duchessa when she was only twenty. She is fiercely devoted to her city, with which she identifies herself, so much so that she decided at an early age not to marry or have children.

At the opening of the story she is perturbed by a card-reading and other divinations of Rodolfo, which predict danger for herself and an unidentified young woman connected with the number sixteen. The Duchessa associates these dangers with the powerful di Chimici family, whose head, Duke Niccolò of Giglia, wants her to ally Bellezza with the Republic of Talia he is trying to put together. But she values Bellezza?s independence above all and will resist to the death.

William Dethridge

William Dethridge, who eventually becomes known in Talia as Gugliemo Crinamorte, is the first Stravagante. He is an Elizabethan, who made the first stravagation by accident, in the course of an alchemical explosion in 1552, and found himself in Talia.

Since then, he has trained Rodolfo and others to be adepts in the art of stravagation and has brought talismans from his world to Talia to facilitate their travels.

He disappeared from the English records in 1575, after being convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death by burning. When Lucien and Rodolfo find him, he is living in Montemurato and still afraid of fire. (You can read the story, The Witch of Montemurato, in the Secret Area, if you collect all the hidden keys.)