Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she's known and loved . . . and leaving means forfeiting what she's come to know--and love itself. Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. In Book One of the River of Time series, Gabi and Lia are stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, boring, and dusty archeological site, 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.
There she comes to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father's castle--a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi's summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world? Quoted from Goodreads
Today I'm going to do something different, something I probably won't do very often because, let's face it, I can't really afford to squander 5 books in one review, but here it is. Today I am reviewing the River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren.
Okay, first the best part of this series: It is over! That doesn't sound very nice, and she may write another add on, but the original trilogy is finished, so no waiting, no picking up the third book and trying desperately to remember what happened in the first two. The trilogy is complete, and you get two novellas that serve as a sort of bonus features/epilogue kind of thing, tying up loose ends and giving us another glance into Gabi's world.
This series is just fun. I love the idea of experiencing the past, of meeting people whose way of life and even way of thinking is vastly different from our own. I liked Gabi and Lia, the way they handle the obsticles put in front of them and their willingness to help those they love. Gabi makes a good narrator because she comes from our time, so the reader learns along with her. She is impulsive, headstrong, caring, and committed, and I enjoyed her as a character. Plus, she has Marcello, who, let's face it, is sweet, brave, and ridiculously patient with this odd girl from the future.
I'd call this series historical-lite because it reads more like a movie than a lot of historical fiction I've read. Don't get me wrong, the setting is in place, but the author doesn't focus on the minutia of life back then. Everything is more plot driven than detail oriented, so if you're looking for a fun adventure, this is it. If you want to learn more about daily life in fourteenth-centuary Italy, you might want to keep searching.
Personally, I like the battles. There is a lot of great fighting, running, and rescuing, and Gabi and Lia are right in the thick of it. While that may be stretching believability a little bit, I like a girl who can fight for herself and defend the people she loves. I also enjoyed how fragile life is in this world. Okay, that sounds morbid, but I don't mean it like that. One of the big themes is to live in the moment, not in an yolo sort of way (and sorry, but I sort of think yolo is the carpe diem for stupid people), but in a don't let your fear of the future stop you from embracing the present sort of way.
Now, were the books perfect? No. Honestly, when Gabi uses slang, it sort of makes me cringe. It reads like a mom trying to sound like a teenager to me---not always, but there were a few really bad moments. The time travel mechanics are kind of weak and never explained very well. Plus, the whole warrior girls from the future who also speak Italian and Latin are kind of stretching incredulity, but suspend your disbelief. The adventure is absolutely worth it.
I really liked these books. They are fun, plain and simple. They have the triumph of good over evil, true love conquers all, and a belief in destiny, all of which are the core of really fun escapes. As far as how much I liked the series, I have to give it 4 stars. Writing . . . that's probably more of a 2. It's kind of like the movie version of The Princess Bride (but not a comedy). You know there are ridiculous problems (and some of the sets are really fake), but you love it so much you just don't care.