Reading level: Young Adult
Size: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook
Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the River of Time series
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 5/5 stars
I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program (it was also available for free for Kindle a while back). I had heard wonderful things about this book and it ended up being an excellent romantic historical fantasy story.
Gabi and her sister Lia are accompanying their mother on an archaeological dig in Italy when they find some hand prints in a tomb. When they place their hands on the hand prints they are sent back in time, separated, and find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between two Italian families. Gabi has to learn how to navigate this strange time, find her sister, find a way back home, and hopefully guard her heart from the lord of the castle Marcello. Marcello is betrothed to another woman but finds himself drawn to Gabi despite the political ramifications.
There are a couple things about this story that are a bit too fairy tale and convenient. Gabi can ride horseback and fight with a sword from the get-go; this is explained via activities she used to do with her father but is a bit too convenient for my taste. The whole falling in love with the lord who rescues her is also a bit too fairy tale. Despite this I found myself absolutely enraptured by this story and couldn’t put the book down.
Gabi is a kick-butt character, she faces a lot of danger in this novel and pulls off being incredibly brave yet still seeming humble about it. She does a number of things that would be somewhat normal in our time, but when she does them in this past era it is so out of character for a woman that it shocks, stuns, and awes the people around her. She was a fun character to read about and very engaging; I found myself really emotionally involved. She has some tough decisions to make throughout the story: does she follow her heart or do what her head says is the right thing to do?
Marcelle was a dream male lead; he is basically the knight in shining armor. Extremely masculine, but tender towards Gabi and very concerned about the welfare of those around him.
Bergren did an excellent job with describing the period and with the language. Gabi reverts to talking in a more archaic/stilted form of language, but she still thinks in normal modern teen slang and sometimes she does slip up in her speech. This was done very well and remained consistent throughout the story.
The plot is well done and is full of conspiracy and plotting, there are some excellent action scenes, and the romance is tender and sweet. Keep in mind this is part of a trilogy so this book does not stand alone, there really isn’t much resolved by the end of this book so I would recommend having the second book, Cascade, on hand.
I was a bit dubious about reading this book because of the Bergren’s religious background, not to mention the publishing house. I’ve been conned into reading fantasies before that end up being more treatises on religion than actual works of fantasy. This book was not like that. Being that you are in old Italy God is mentioned a number of times. Gabi occasionally wonders if her being sent back in time was God’s will (even though she is admittedly not all that religious) and wonders when people pray to God if he really hears. Besides those mentions this really isn’t a religious heavy book. I thought the use of religion was reasonable and fit well with the story, I never felt like I was being preached too or beat over the head with heavy religious beliefs. So don’t let the Christian history of the writer or publishing house deter you from reading this book.
Overall I loved this book. The characters, plot, and action scenes were all very well done. Sure all the sword fighting, horseback riding, language skills that Gabi had were a bit too convenient and maybe Marcelle was a bit too perfect…but the package made for a wonderful historical fantasy full of intrigue, adventure, and a very sweet romance. Fans of historical fantasy with romance will find a lot here to love. I absolutely could not put this book down. A lot remains unresolved at the end of this book so I have to admit I immediately went out and bought Cascade and Torrent so that I could read the rest of the story.