Review: Waterfall - Lisa T. Bergren

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren
Series: The River of Time #1
Genre: YA, time travel, romance
Published on February 1, 2011
Published by David C. Cook
Pages: 
Read From: 5.25.13 - 5.26.13











SYNOPSIS
Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives among the romantic hills with their archaeologist parents. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural
Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds. . . .until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces. Suddenly Gabi's summer in Italy is much, much more interesting.

Review

Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I am a fan of the castle in the background, but I don't especially care for the character impersonator. That isn't how I pictured Gabi at all. And if someone can explain to me why this book is called Waterfall, I will be eternally grateful.

Characters: 
I wanted to look away from him, but I couldn't. He was the most handsome guy I'd ever seen, with a model's physique and a face to match. Big, chocolate-brown eyes, square jaw, aristocratic nose, pronounced cheekbones . . . a serious hottie. I'd never encountered such Italian hotness outside of Roma. Gabi (pg. 27) 
I was not a fan of Gabi Betarrini in the beginning. All she did was complain about the lack of civilization in Tuscany, and when she traveled back in time, all she could notice was how hot the guys were. Really? You've just been catapulted back into a different century, landed right in the middle of a skirmish, are separated from your sister, and that's what you're focusing on? I almost closed Waterfall right then and there, but I persevered and I'm glad I did. Because while Gabi does plenty of noticing of the prevailing "Italian hotness" surrounding her, after a while she actually grew on me a bit. She stopped complaining, she stopped talking about the resident hotties, and became an acceptable narrator. She will never be my favorite protagonist, and I wish I had had someone else to follow along in this adventure, but I didn't end the book hating her, and that's something - especially considering my initial impression. Her sister Lia I never did care for. She was too eager to go back home and it turned her into a whiner. I dislike whiny characters, no matter how justified their moaning might be. But where the two girls failed, the male characters succeeded. Marcello and I didn't hit it off at first, and it was mostly due to Gab'si oh-so-wonderful description of him on page 27. But after a while, I began to get past Gabi's annoying drooling and like Marcello's personality. He's protective without being possessive, gallant without being perfect, and just an all-around nice guy. His older brother, Fortino, I pitied and loved, he had such a friendly disposition. Luca was my favorite, though, with his gentle teasing and harmless flirting. The villains were surprisingly despicable and believable for the era. [Spoiler] For a moment, Lady Rossi even had me fooled into believing that she was nice. [End spoiler]

The Romance: It doesn't take long for Gabi to pine after Marcello, and it doesn't take Marcello long to reciprocate. Amazingly, the romance isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, their attachment is pretty fast, but Gabi takes a surprisingly mature stand. Marcello is engaged to Lady Rossi, and it is a marriage that must go through if the Fortellis are to have protection from Siena. Gabi realizes that she can't come between them, and she constantly takes the selfless stand even when Marcello is willing to throw everything away for her. It was this move alone that made me actually respect Gabi somewhat and eventually redeemed her character. Lia, on the other hand, doesn't give poor lovesick Luca the time of day, and because Luca was my favorite in the entire story, I resented Lia for it.

Plot: Gabi and Lia are prepared for yet another boring summer in Italy, as their archaeologist mother sets out to an Etruscan dig site in rural Tuscany. But then the two girls wander into one of the ancient tombs the team is excavating, and when they put their hands over two strange handprints, Gabi is launched back to fourteenth-century Tuscany - right in the middle of a skirmish between two hostile neighbors. Lia is nowhere to be found. Lost and confused, Gabi seeks shelter with Lord Marcello Fortelli, where she parades as a noblewoman from Normandy in search of her missing mother and sister. It's a dangerous charade, but Gabi has no choice. And when she discovers that the Fortellis are involved in a famous war between the Florentines and the Sienes, she begins to realize just how perilous a time in history she's landed herself in. Desperate to find Lia before it's too late, Gabi enlists the help of handsome Marcello, only to discover that the local bands of hostile soldiers are not the biggest threat, for her own heart is set to betray her. How can she ever hope to fall in love with a man in a totally different era - and keep him? The first third of Waterfall held little hope for me. Gabi is getting into the swing of the fourteenth century, is constantly sneaking off to try and find her sister on her own (which isn't brilliant of her), and doing things that no self respecting fourteenth century noblewoman would do - like hiking up her skirts, carrying a sword, repelling down a wall, and wearing her hair down. I wanted to scream at Gabi to stop behaving oddly and just fit into the century! She never does totally, but after a while she gets better about it. Except she still has a bad tendency of just wandering off on her own without warning. I totally understood Marcello and Luca's frustration with her when she did that. But once Gabi's search for Lia begins in earnest, the plot gets exciting and Gabi less aggravating, as she's sucked further into the fight between the Fortellis and Paragues. We momentarily abandon the romance (but only just) and focus on the fascinating political struggle.

Believability: I will give the Author credit in this area: she did research and used it. The medieval period was not known for its excessive use of the bathtub, but in humid Italy it was a much more common practice than in cold, rainy Britain, where catching a chill was much more likely. Gabi realistically loses the few sword fights she becomes engaged in, and she even mentions how heavy the swords are. However, Gabi does fare far longer against the brute force of some of the swordsmen than she would in reality, but it's a small complaint in retrospect. The dialogue was also pretty believable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Since I am a fan of both, I should have been positively pleased with the writing, right? Well, no. See, Gabi is the narrator and she's a teen. And the Author decided to give her an excessive "modern teen" narration voice. And it drove me up a wall. Thankfully, as Gabi eases into the fourteenth century, even her personal thoughts stops being so modern in tone and the teen slang starts to go away somewhat.

Content: None.

Conclusion: After suffering through a less-than-promising beginning, we're given an exciting siege. And a "twist" that I spotted a mile away, but still enjoyed. Waterfall is a prime example of a book that started out with absolutely no promise and ended up pleasantly surprising me. It had its issues: Gabi was not my favorite protagonist, but she did get better as the story progressed. The romance was too rushed, but both characters involved behaved maturely. The pros outweighed the cons enough to make me enjoy this book - the historical accuracies were great, the plot took an interesting turn, and for all of Gabi's faults, at least she didn't have The Attitude. So this might not be the book for everyone, and it will never be a favorite with me, but there are worse book you could read.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fourteen-and-up, good for fans of historical romance.

Others in The River of Time Series:
1)Waterfall
2)Cascade
3)Torrent


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