Series: River of Time #1
Summary: Gabriella Betarrini is used to spending her summers in Italy. The daughters of archaeologists, Gabi and her sister equate vacation with hovering outside old Etruscan tombs, desperately waiting for something exciting to happen. One day, while peeking into one of the tombs, they find more adventure than they bargain for. Two handprints, which inexplicably match their own, are printed on the wall. Touching them activates a mysterious time vortex, which transports Gabi to medieval Italy, on the fridge of a battle. She immediately finds herself in the midst of territorial wars and political intrigue, fighting for her own life while trying to find Lia, who never appeared beside her in the 14th century.
Review: In Waterfall, Bergren tells an engaging story. Perilous battles, unfolding romance, and the mysteries of the time tunnel keep the book interesting. There are few dull moments in medieval Italy. It is that excitement Gabi falls in love with as she decides that a life often in peril – from war or from the threat of disease and pre-modern medicine – is precious, and therefore well-lived. The reasonably quick pace of the story, complete with a scattering of life-threatening battles and midnight journeys, keeps the reader feeling the fullness of life Gabi observes.
The reader is constantly reminded that this is not pure historical fiction, but rather a story of time travel. Gabi, though she feels a certain belonging in the 14th century, is a product of her 21st century upbringing. She appreciates the chivalrous protection of the knights who surround her, but is more outspoken and independent than any woman they have ever encountered. And, of course, she wields a sword. Though the story of a modern warrior maiden can be unrealistic, Bergren makes it work. Gabi knew a little of swordplay from her father’s teaching her to fence. And though her skills grow quickly during the course of the novel, she does, originally, find a real sword too heavy to hold, and initially relies on the element of surprise to give her an advantage. There is a good balance of her saving and being saved, and an appreciable element of everyone’s needing to rely on each other.
Many of the characters fall into recognizable categories – the handsome warrior heir; his jealous, too-sweet fiancé; the best friend with an infallible sense of humor – but the good characters are convincingly lovable, and Bergren tells a story gripping enough for this reader to forgive any clichés. And, for those who find themselves lost in this story and wanting more, Bergren has so far published two full-length sequels and a novella, that latter available just as an e-book at this time.