Um…wow. I don’t know what on earth spiked traffic yesterday(from…Canada?), but thank you to whoever is responsible! I appreciate it greatly.
For today, I’ve got one of my favorite YA series. River of Time by Lisa Tawn Bergren, a series introduced to me by one of my very best friends with the words that she didn’t think I’d like it because it was “mushy.” And considering that all she’d seen of my tastes in romance were in my novel when the heroine shoves the hero down the stairs because he tried to kiss her, those fears were probably founded. But in this case, she was actually wrong. I. Loved. It. The heroes were Hershey sweet and could inspire a whole lot of knight-in-shining armor fantasies, but I still adored them. Also, there were a lots of swords and arrows and fights in general, so that kept my somewhat violent(notice the “sanity optional” part of the title) self happy. Oh, and there was time-travel, which is always a bonus for a confirmed Whovian. All in all, a very nice series.
The series begins with Gabriella Betarrini, the daughter of an archaeologist specializing in Etruscan artifacts, stuck in every teenage girl’s dream destination: Italy. The only problem is that she doesn’t want to be there. After all, being there every summer kinda saps all the wonder out of the trip. However, she isn’t bored for long. Upon sneaking into one of the tombs at their mother’s dig site, Gabi and slightly younger sister Lia find themselves yanked back in time to Medieval Toscana. And so begins an epic series that explores how exactly a pair of modern girls ( and BIGGER SPOILERS eventually the rest of the family) adjust to the challenges and brutality of a world of hot Italian knights and warring castellos.
Okay, as far as characters go, they were very good. The only ones I had any difficulty connecting with were Marcello and, in the later novellas, Lord Greco. With Marcello, he’s…essentially Prince Charming with an Italian accent. And while that’s still incredibly attractive, I found Luca (at left) a bit easier to connect with. And with Greco, his pity parties–while justified and realistic–just started to irk me. But all three had their endearing moments and I doubt anyone in the world could actually dislike them. Honestly, this series has sort of swayed my opinion of Italian men. The afore-mentioned best friend and I have an ongoing argument over whether Italian men or British men are better (despite the fact that neither of us knows one of either), and Luca, Marcello, and Greco make it kinda hard to keep arguing…
With Gabi and Lia, Bergren did an amazing job getting into the teenage mind. Both girls were fully developed, expertly drawn characters that did a great job of pulling you right into the page along with them. Particularly in the later books as it really began to sink in that they were really going to have to stay in that time period and as they began to actually think about the things they were going to have to deal with as women in Medieval Italy. One thing in particular that I loved were Lia’s issues with archery in Tributary; I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that you’d already taken quite a few lives–even with a reason–and that you would probably have to end more in the future. For some reason (I haven’t shot anybody! I promise!), that really made me feel for her and helped humanize the character.
The plots of the three novels and two novellas were also very well-done. The voice and tone served to draw you in from page one and the engaging story kept you there. Though I will admit, the two later novellas are a bit weaker plot-wise, they concentrate more on character development and that makes it okay. The balance of action and romance is pretty even and helps keep the series interesting for those of us without an overlarge literary sweet tooth. Honestly, the only beef I have with the premise of the story is the time-travel aspect. As a sci-fi buff, I’m used to the tech being explained, and–unless I missed it somehow–the reason why an Etruscan tomb can mysteriously transport a pair of modern girls into the past is never explained. I realize it really isn’t the point, and honestly, it doesn’t really detract from the story since you’re kind of distracted after Marcello and Luca arrive, but still…I WANT TO KNOW!!!
All in all, though, it was an excellent series, and I really, really, really, really hope Lisa gets to write more of it. Also, I’m jealous of her romance writing skills. 🙂