Lisa T. Bergren has a plethora of historical fiction novels published, but six years ago (2011), she ventured into Young Adult fiction with a novel on time travel. In a unique CF offering, the novel took two teenage main characters back to medieval Italy. The first three books of the series (Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent) spawned a significant fan following and prompted Bergren to continue the series with three independently published titles (Bourne, Tributary, and Deluge) in 2012 & 2014.
In 2016, Bergren continued with her time travel adventures. The concept remained the same, but the new series featured different characters, a new era, and even a new fantastical time travel method.
Three Wishes begins the series (of which there are currently two titles). The story involves Zara Ruiz. 17 years old and nearly an adult, we enter into Zara’s life as she is consumed with the fresh grief of her grandmother’s passing. In an attempt to run to expel some of her immense grief, she finds herself on a California beach. Through a mysterious combination of three wishes, a fisherman, a pool of starfish, and a golden relic, she is transported back to California in the 1840s. There she comes into contact with the rakish Javier de la Ventura who is at one both frustrating and charming. Thrown into a reliance upon his family, Zara is forced to decide if her three wishes can best be filled in the past, or in her own time.
To begin, the differences between this offering and Bergren’s previous time-traveling adventures were refreshing. While the basic concept is certainly the same, Zara Ruiz is a new character who stumbles into time travel in a wholly unique way. Similarly, the conflicts and difficulties of the past in which she finds herself in are vastly different from the earlier series. Alto California is, not surprisingly, vastly different from medieval Italy.
While these aspects surpassed my expectations, much of the rest of the novel fell short for me. The adventure and danger is minimal, as is the legitimate tug of war within Zara herself as she decides whether to remain in 1840 or attempt to return to her own time. Difficulties are alluded to in regards to pirates and a push for California statehood, but in this first book of the series, nothing actually manifests.
Similarly, the initial interaction between the main characters (Zara and Javier) is, at first, promising. However, a too-quick turn into an undeniable attraction minimizes all other concerns. The climax of the novel, which has Zara wrestling with whether to return or remain, felt anticlimactic as it held no real danger and gave us no real sense as to why a return to the present would be at all preferable.
Christianity in Fiction
Christianity does not appear profoundly in the text, however that does increase its possible audience. God is briefly referenced the one who made the time travel possible. It also briefly alludes to the Christianity of the de la Venturas.
Its writing is fine, its characters fairly vivid, and while there is minimal adventure and emotion, the promise of future danger does position its sequel well for greater achievement. Overall, Three Wishes felt more like a prequel. As such, I’ll be reading the second novel (Four Winds), which I hope to find more aligned with the adventure and emotion of Bergren’s earlier time travel series.