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Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
Release date: February 1, 2011
Source: Borrowed from Writer Musings
Series: River of Time #1
Summary: (from Goodreads) In Waterfall, American teenager Gabi Betarrini accidently finds herself in sixteenth-century Italy . . . Knights. Swords. Horses. Armor. And Italian hotties. Most American teens want an Italian vacation, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives there with their archaeologist parents. Stuck on yet another hot, dusty dig, they are bored out of their minds... until they place their hands atop handprints in an ancient tomb and find themselves catapulted into the sixteenth-century—and in the middle of a fierce battle between knights bent on killing one another.
First impressions: I actually read the first chapter, put the book down, and thought about not picking it up again. But if I have any advice it is this: KEEP READING! It doesn't take long for the story to zoom off, whether or not you're buckled in for the ride. Once I picked it up again, you practically had to pry this book from my clenched fingers.
Lasting impressions: Disgustingly good. Lisa Bergren is a diabolical plot genius who will keep you fully immersed in this world, despite bedtimes, homework, jobs, or significant others.
Conflicting impressions: For me, the opening chapters with the girls in the present time weren't as engaging as the rest of the novel. For some reason, I just didn't connect with that material as well, and felt I got more backstory than I really needed.
Overall impressions: If you're not already loading this one into your online shopping carts, you haven't been paying attention. This story has it all: adventure, suspense, romance, and mystery. It will keep you guessing, and keep your heart in your throat.
Gabi is a wonderful protagonist. She is thrust back through the centuries, uncertain if her sister is there with her, and winds up smack in the middle of an ongoing Italian turf war. Despite political, physical, and emotional hurdles, she uses her brain to make the best of her unexpected situation. Even though she doesn't know who she can trust, she outmaneuvers everyone to put together a daring plan to rescue her sister.
I am a sucker for time travel books, mostly because it is a personal fantasy of mine. In the hands of an excellent researcher, that wish nearly comes true. I can always tell when a historical novelist really knows their stuff, and Bergren does not disappoint. Everything about the world rings true, which only sucked me deeper into the story. I melted into Gabi's castle life with ease, and every room, road and character was brought vividly to life.
And oh, the characters! A flirtatious sidekick, a mothering cook, a sickly heir, a mean girl. It would be so easy to write the caricature and be done with it, but Bergren doesn't do easy. She writes complicated, deep characters that read like actual humans faced with difficult circumstances. Each of these types becomes so much more, surprising our expectations and threatening our snap judgments.
Above all, this story has heart. Gabi will stop at nothing to find and save her sister, yet just when she thinks she is ready to leave, the beautiful Marcello gives her pause. It is a testament to Bergren's gift that we can simultaneously want Gabi to leave and to stay. Her choice is difficult because we see the good Gabi can bring, and the love that can be her reward. Yet she struggles to cement her own fate one way or the other. It is the ultimate impasse, and completely riveting.
To me this book was like Outlander for teens. No lust. No sex. But a courageous, stubborn, time-traveling heroine who discovers more about herself in the past than in the present? Oh yes. That, and so much more.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Not enough gushing for you? Want to see even more high praise for this amazing book? Check out Small Review's take and see if you can resist this book after that!
Need it now? Check out this interview with Lisa Bergren and win a copy of Waterfall at I Am A Reader Not A Writer. Be sure to check back here tomorrow, where I'll be hosting a giveaway of my own!