Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren (Third Book for the 2011 Speculative Reading Challenge)

This is my third book review for this fabulous challenge,
hosted by Magemanda at Floor to Ceiling Books!

Title: Cascade
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Trade Paperback, 399 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook
Release Date: June 1, 2011
Genres: YA Science Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

The Betarrini sisters are back in the 21st century, but not for long!  Emerging from the time-traveling tomb that propelled them into 14th-century Italy, they encounter their very perplexed archaeologist mother, who immediately wants to know where they got their medieval garb.  Needless to say, Gabi and Lia manage to convince her that they have, indeed, traveled back in time, and even talk her into returning to the past with them!

Thus begin the further adventures of these teen girls, in a land of political intrigue and fierce city-state loyalties, with Mrs. Betarrini along for the ride.  They have planned to tell the Forellis that Mom is a merchant, dealing in Etruscan artifacts.  After her initial, shaky disbelief, Mrs. B. finds herself fitting right in, going so far as to concoct a very convincing story when asked where Gabi and Lia had found her.

An important change has taken place in the sisters' absence.  Fortino, Marcello Forelli's brother, is now in excellent health, thanks to Gabi's ministrations, which were detailed in the first book of the trilogy.  He is also betrothed to Romana Rossi, the woman Marcello had been set to marry before he fell in love with Gabi, subsequently breaking his engagement to Romana.  This sets Gabi to thinking...does Romana truly love Fortino?  Or is something else going on?

In this second volume, the blossoming relationship between Luca and Lia, hinted at in Waterfall, begins to unfold, as Lia grudgingly admits that she is falling for Luca, who had already been smitten with her in the first book. 

Gabi and Lia are also being hailed as "the She-Wolves of Siena", and a great celebration is prepared in their honor.  During the festivities, the evil Lord Paratore, captured by the Sienese, is brought forth, and Gabi has to make a horrible decision to ensure that he will no longer be a threat to the city of Siena.  Unfortunately, this decision does nothing to prevent that; instead, it makes Paratore even more determined to seek revenge not only on the sisters, but on the Sienese, as well.

This novel is even more full of action, if that's possible, than the first.  The sisters soon find themselves pursued by the Fiorentini (the Florentines), and come face to face with Paratore once again, this time with an army behind him.  Treachery and daring escapes abound, while Luca Forelli even has a very close brush with the Black Plague.

When, later in the book, the sisters are reunited with their mother, they hatch a daring plan that involves returning to the 21st century to rescue their father from death.  

In a style that is simple and perfectly crafted, Bergren tells a wonderfully detailed, historically-based story, one that totally immerses the reader in a very believable world. 

Although the constant twists and turns of the plot make this book a page-turner, they wouldn't work without the truly memorable characters, who are so vividly real, so likable, that one is left feeling bereft when the last page has been read.  

Gabi is not only resourceful and brave, but a very down-to-earth, average American teenager, as is her sister, Lia.  They are different, however, for Gabi is a natural-born leader, an extrovert, whereas Lia is not only more shy, but also more pensive, much less impulsive than Gabi.

Marcello is a dream of courtly manners paired with romantic intensity.  Yet he is no ineffectual dandy.  He, too, is a natural leader, one capable of inspiring great loyalty in his men.  His feelings for Gabriella Betarrini eventually cause some verbal sparring between them, as her fiercely independent nature makes it impossible for her to play the role of damsel in distress.

Luca, being more fun-loving, although no less romantic, courts Lia through his joking manner.  He is also more confident, even in the face of Lia's reluctance to fall for him, that he will be able to win her love.  His personality is more boyish than Marcello's, as well.  

The girls' mother is another of the wonderful characters.  Although a self-proclaimed pacifist, she quickly adapts to the circumstances, learning to wield a double-pointed staff as skillfully as Gabi wields her sword.  As Marcello observes, at the beginning of the novel, the Betarrini sisters have inherited their uncommon courage and determination in battle from her.  

Bergren has woven several themes into these novels, such as the importance of family loyalty, the courage to face and deal with difficult circumstances, and the traditional coming-of-age tale.  That she has done so in a highly entertaining manner is a real tribute to her skill as a writer.

The third and last novel, Torrent, will close the trilogy.  I'm not only looking forward to it, but am also glad, paradoxically, that it hasn't been released yet.  The thing is, I know I will find it very hard to say goodbye to these characters I have come to cherish as deeply as if they were in fact family!



  1. This series sounds so epic! I recently got the first book for free on Kindle and am excited to read it. Must check out the Speculative Fiction Challenge, too. Thanks for the great review, Maria! :)

  2. Hey, Kat!

    I know you'll love this series! It's great that you got the first book for free!! As you know, I'd rather have a printed book in my hands, even if I have to pay for it. I just can't warm up to the Kindle, the Nook, or whatever ereader is out there.

    The Speculative Fiction Challenge is very interesting, as well. Hope you get involved!

    Thanks for the compliment!! Your comments always make my day!!!! : )

  3. Hey, Maria. I'm reading Waterfall right now and LOVING it. Nice to see this one's got 5 stars. Great review as always and I love that new banner!

  4. i would like to discover this serie, your review make it seems so wonderful
    thanks you


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