I have not read a lot of Christian YA fantasy that I have enjoyed and not found too far-fetched or allegorical. However I picked this book up from the Christian bookshop on a whim, and promptly found out that it delivered in all aspects of awesomeness. After all, how could time-travelling girls, knights in shining armour, and ancient Italy not come together to form something epic?
The first book in the River of Time trilogy opens with the Betarrini girls – Gabi and Lia – on an archaeology dig with their mum in Tuscany. Having recently lost their father in a car accident, the family relationship is somewhat strained as they travel here and there following Mrs Betarrini’s next guess as to where the best dig sites could be. When they have arrived in Tuscany, they are excited discover the lost Etruscan tombs that the girl’s parents had been searching for for so many years.
However when problems arise concerning paperwork, and permissions to continue the dig, the girls use this opportunity to see inside the tomb themselves. Upon entering, they find two handprints on the wall, which – oddly enough – look the same size as their own. Gabi and Lia press their hands to the prints, and with a flash of light and heat from the handprints, Gabi finds herself alone in the cave. Groping towards the exit, the scene before her is not of the simply Tuscan landscape and their mum’s archaeologist tent, but a full-blown war between mounted knights and warriors.
Knowing she has somehow arrived in 14th century Italy – yet not sure how – she is taken in by the Forellis, a royal family of the era who is in the middle of a feud with neighbouring royals. This is where she falls for Marcello Forelli, soon-to-be lord of the castle. It is also where she also falls into a mysterious espionage hidden beneath courtly splendour. She has two options: to follow her heart and remain, or follow her mind and return to the future before she effects the past…
I couldn’t put this book down. The historical elements to it were amazingly done, with so much accuracy and detail that it gave the story a very real authenticity. The crossover between the present and past was also interesting, because the author cleverly included an interior monologue of Gabi in today’s lingo, whilst still keeping the speech of the historical characters true to their era. It made it almost entrancing to read, as it was a constant reminder that the character came from the future. There are a lot of characters in the story, but not too many to lose complete track of as the story progressed. The intrigue was also very captivating, and made you think; trying to work out where certain character’s loyalties stood was thought-provoking. All-in-all, the characters, setting, and plot made for a very enjoyable read.
However it wasn’t perfect. Gabi has a “boyfriends come and go” mindset, and a view on love that seems rather temporary. Spoiler: But as the series progresses, this mindset becomes annulled. Gabi and Marcello share several kisses; not too over the top, but in some detail nonetheless. This was probably the only major issue I had with it. The romantic side of the story seemed to happen very fast, however the fact that I prefer it done a lot slower may just be personal opinion. There is a fair share of violence, since they are in the middle of a 14th century war, but I didn’t find anything too graphic or overwhelming.
So though it had a few things that took away from the story, overall I found this book an engrossing and entertaining read that I would very much recommend. I’d give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
Published on 19 March, 2012. Last updated on