Book Review: Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Publisher: David C. Cook

Published: 1st February 2011

Format: Kindle E-book

Genre: Historical Romance,  YA

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

Rating: 6/10

Amazon/Goodreads

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 archaelogist 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 handprint 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.

Waterfall looked like a safe bet – judging by the many 5/4 star reviews I’ve seen. It also looked like my perfect kind of book – historical setting, a heroine transported back in time, manly men with swords and so forth.

So I’m kind of sad it turned out to be an average read for me.

Mostly, this is due to the writing, which I have to admit, I found juvenile (the ‘teen speech’ was awkward). Gabi, the main protagonist, was particularly immature and mildly annoying. I would cringe whenever she insisted on putting herself in dangerous situations, endangering the lives of other characters, because she breezily ignored the social customs of the time, or mistakenly imagined she could hold her own against an experienced medieval soldier. Gabi is also conveniently able to scale walls, ride bare back, administer herbal remedies and speak medieval Italian. The explanation for these (many) skills was simply that her parents had an interest in them or took the time to teach her, odd, considering I got the distinct impression that both were very much preoccupied with their work, to the point where both girls felt a little ignored.

I much preferred Lia, her younger sister, who isn’t swayed in the slightest by flirty, dashing knights, doesn’t relish the idea of being stuck in an era of limited medicine and old-fashioned chivalry and is adamant they leave as soon as possible. I also found her abilities with a bow a lot more kick-ass than any of Gabi’s posturing with a sword. (Yes I shoot and have my own bow and no, I probably wouldn’t be any good in a medieval battle). In fact, I rather loved Lia.

I also liked Luca and Fortino far more than Marcello, who unfortunately didn’t have much of a personality beyond being a ”hottie” and very gallant (worthy though these attributes are). Waterfall features a classic knight in shinning armor romance, all very chaste and fairy tale-like with Marcello declaring his undying devotion and protection, in a way that will no doubt set young hearts a swooning. I can’t say I was all that interested in their relationship, but their romance is sweet and isn’t overdone.

Waterfall is classed as Christian fiction – but I wouldn’t let that influence you either way. There isn’t any underlying or strong message about religion, only three or four brief moments where Gabi ponders whether God sent her back in time, asks for his guidance and wonders whether she has a purpose in being there. The references to God are rather plonked into the middle of the narrative, but it’s not a running theme, and isn’t heavy-handed at all.

Aside from the overall young feel of the book, Bergren sadly failed to make fourteenth century Italy come alive for me. I wanted more detail. The characters are too quick to accept Gabi’s modern ways. And little things bugged me such as Gabi describing a medieval sword as 30Ibs heavier than she was used to, when, from what I’ve read, they were actually very agile weapons and most likely wouldn’t have weighed more than 4, maybe 5Ibs (though I could be wrong on this point). There is also the glaring issue that Bergren never explains how or why Gabi and Lia are able to travel to the past.

Waterfall is most likely a book I would have liked a lot more as a young teenager, it’s a fun, light story that held my interest but didn’t captivate me. However, I have heard that Lia features far more in book two so I may well borrow a copy to see how her story develops.

But I still wonder why the book is called Waterfall.

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