Monday, April 9, 2012

Waterfall by Lisa Tawn Bergren

What do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

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 the 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 hand print 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.

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An enjoyable sweet romance with teen characters that are refreshingly mature about their attraction and don't just get all gushy over one another. Add in the time-travel twist, and a girl that's literally hundreds of years ahead of the time she finds herself in, and this one is well-set to be interesting from page one. The author does a good job of pulling the reader in from the start as well with the way Gabi is written to sound just like any intelligent modern teenage girl you might know. You feel like you know her well from page one, and she's just mature enough that even those of us like me who are well past our teens can relate to her.

Gabriella is the daughter of an Etruscan archaeologist who is being forced to spend her summer with her sister Lia at her mother's dig site in Italy somewhere between Florence and Siena. Her father passed away fairly recently, and now it is just the three of them, though their mother frequently seems to forget about them for hours at a time when she gets caught up with her work, leaving the girls to amuse themselves as best they can around the site. It is while amusing themselves by exploring an Etruscan tomb they've recently uncovered while their mother is occupied with a rival archaeologist that the girls accidentally trigger a time portal. Gabi soon finds herself alone and in the midst of a battle in the early 14th century, still dressed in her 21st century clothing - skinny jeans and a cami top. There are a few tense moments when she is spotted by the men, but she soon ends up in the company of Marcello Forelli, one of the local lordlings, and taken back to his father's castello where they buy her quickly crafted story of being separated from her family and all her belongings stolen by their escorts and she is treated as a foreign noblewoman. Learning to act the part comes far more difficult to her, and while she slowly starts to adjust and at least tries to stay within acceptable boundaries of behavior, she still is far more headstrong than any other girl of the time and the men often don't know what to make of her.

Marcello is Lord Forelli's second son, but the presumed heir as his elder brother is in poor health and generally not expected to live to inherit after their father dies. Lord Forelli is also in poor health, having presumably suffered a stroke some months past. Thus, as the only able-bodied male of the family, Marcello is already in many ways the Lord of the Castello. He is the one who leads their soldiers into battle, and he is the one who oversees the smooth operation of the various daily routines of the castle. Though he is only 19, he is already very much a man, experience and responsibility having matured him at an early age no doubt. It almost impossible to think of him as being a teenager really, for he almost always acts more like he's in his 30s than still in his teens. Only once in awhile does his youth show through.

The political and social climate that Gabi finds herself in is extremely complicated, and they all soon find themselves caught up in a web of intrigues and facing a series of crises, some brought on by Gabi's assertiveness and take-action attitude and her refusal to stand down and let others handle searching for her sister, and some by others who take advantage of the situations and use them to further their own aims. While I think some of the aspects of the time-traveling Gabi does are simplified, for instance the almost unquestioning way she is fairly immediately accepted by the Forellis, nevertheless the author does a good enough job of portraying Gabi as something of a fish out of water to be believable enough. She also does a good job of keeping you guessing just where the story twists and turns will take you next, and keeps you holding your breath right up to the last page almost wondering if things will come out alright or not.

A very enjoyable book, with a little bit of something for almost everyone with the fantasy aspects of time-traveling, the budding romance between Marcello and Gabi that they try to avoid letting happen, as well as some edge of the seat suspense and action scenes. Maybe a bit too YA for some, but definitely one I'd recommend people give a try.

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