Monday, December 12, 2011

Waterfall: A Novel Book Review

Author: Lisa T. Bergren. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  David C. Cook. ISBN: 9781434764331.
Annotation:  After discovering a mysterious time portal in an ancient Etruscan tomb, seventeen-year-old Gabrielle finds herself transported back in time to 14th century Italy. Lost in the war-torn countryside, Gabrielle falls under the protection of Castello Forelli, one of two opposing sides of a civil war, and the handsome Marcello, a brave knight who is next-in-line to rule the Forelli lands.
Personal thoughts:  I love time travel, so I was really excited about reading this novel. Although I found it to be glaringly wholesome (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was just very obvious), I did enjoy Waterfall. The story took a little time to really get moving, but once it did I was intrigued to find out what was going to happen with Gabi, Lia and Marcello. I’m looking forward to finishing the series by reading the next two novels, and am interested to see what else the author publishes in the future.  
Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Gabrielle “Gabi” Betarrini and her fifteen-year-old sister Evangelia “Lia” are stuck working with their archaeologist mother in the Italian countryside for the summer. Bored out of their minds and finding no entertainment in the Etruscan ruins, Gabi and Lia decide one afternoon to explore a recently unearthed tomb. Upon entering the ancient shrine, Gabi and Lia discover two handprints etched into the stone wall: handprints that match their own perfectly and that are warm to the touch. After she and Lia both place their hands on the wall, Gabi finds herself alone in the tomb surrounded in darkness. Struggling to find the exit, Gabi emerges in the midst of a battle between two sets of medieval looking knights. After nearly getting killed herself, Gabi discovers that she has transported back in time to the 14th century. Her rescuers, knights of Castello Forelli, take her to their walled stronghold nearby, mistaking her for a noble woman from far away Normandy. Gabi is shaken by what has happened, but even more worried about Lia: both girls placed their hands on the wall of the tomb at the same time, but Lia is nowhere to be found. Determined to find her sister, Gabi finds herself distracted by the handsome Lord Marcello, heir to the throne of Castello Forelli. It seems that Gabi has landed smack in the middle of a conflict that has been brewing for decades between Castello Forelli and the neighboring Castello Paratore. Will Gabi be able to survive the bloody war, and the dashing good looks of Marcello, long enough to find Lia, and get back to her own time?
Review:  Veteran author Lisa T. Bergren begins a new series for young adults with Waterfall, one that includes time travel, romance, action, and lots of charm. Gabi and Lia’s story begins almost immediately with the author wasting little to no time thrusting the girls back into the 14th century Italian countryside. Although some of Gabi’s skills that are uncovered after travelling back in time, i.e. her ability to speak medieval Italian, her knowledge of fencing, and her healing abilities, are a little reminiscent of Mark Twain’s tongue-in-cheek A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, her adventures fighting alongside the knights of Castello Forelli ultimately prove entertaining. The religious aspects of the novel (Gabi seems to struggle with the constant religious references of the medieval Italians) do not go unnoticed, adding an interesting component to the story that is not overpowering. Overall, Waterfall is an enjoyable first installment in Bergren’s River of Time series. The second and third novels, Cascade and Torrent were also released in 2011.
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: Cascade and Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren.    
Themes:  Time travel, Italy, medieval times, sibling relationships, romance.
Awards/Reviews:  Written by award-winning author.
Series Information: First installment in River of Time series. Cascade and Torrent are sequels.  
Discussion questions: 
- Who were the Etruscans?
- Research 14th century Italy. What was life like in those times?
- Who was “the poet” that Gabi and Fortino were discussing? How are his works important in literary history?
- Why do you think that Lia travelled back in time after Gabi?
- Do you think it was right for the Forellis to torture the men who destroyed the manor? Why or why not?
- What would you like to see happen in the second and third novels in this series?

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