Book Review: Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren

riveroftime_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.


threewishescover4_8Three 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.



5 thoughts on “Book Review: Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren

  1. Abigail says:

    Please let us know how you like Four Winds! I loved Bergren’s Italy series, but the excerpt of Three Wishes failed to capture my attention, so I’ve not actually read it. But if Four Winds is good I might. 🙂


  2. Kate says:

    *sigh* I started it, then got sidetracked from it (not a promising sign, I’ll admit…though it was at least MUCH better than Three Wishes). I really do need to finish it (at the time I started I was finishing a degree, so it may not be completely the book’s fault that I was distracted…). I think that will be next on my agenda. You should see a new post about it soon. 🙂


  3. Abigail says:

    Yay! Thanks 🙂

    By the way, I laughed when I looked at your about page. I think we must be fictional soulmates. LOL. I READ that series by Lois Walfrid Johnson over and over. I remember them being sooo exciting. I’m sorry I gave them away a long time ago. I think my daughter would have enjoyed them in a few years.

    And then, the Egypt series. Oh my. I seriously lived in those books the last couple years of high school. I reread them so many times!! I tried to pick them back up recently and relive the adventure and they just fell flat for me (so much hashing and rehashing of the same scene–drove me nuts). 😦 I was so sad. So now, I just enjoy the memories of my first time reading them through (and the Silk series that Chaikin also wrote). Did you ever read Thursday’s Child by Linda Chaikin? It’s connects to the characters in the Egypt series–it was super cool. 🙂

    I know she wrote more after that but I was in college then and by the time I came around to picking up a later book, I just couldn’t get into them anymore. It was like she recycled the same characters in new clothes and time period. That might not be totally true–it was just the way it seemed to me at the time.


  4. Abigail says:

    OH! Did you ever read anything by Nancy Rue? I read a couple of her books when I was a kid and thought they were a little odd, but I liked them. I’ve really enjoyed the adult books she’s written in the past few years. She’s a CF writer who gets life and tells it like it is. You get a good story with character development with her books.


  5. Kate says:

    Bah! This is hysterical! First, I gave away the Lois Walfrid Johnson series. Then years later was still depressed about doing so, so I splurged and bought it again. It was worth it. I read it even as an adult (new mom at the time) and still loved it. Just biding my time until I can give it to my daughter. The only thing holding me back is her sensitive little heart that struggles with mysteries. A year or two more and I think she’ll be ready.

    I haven’t re-read the Egypt series in a while. I remember upon my re-reads really enjoying the history she incorporates, but definitely not enjoying the individual characters as much as I once did. And I totally get what you mean about kind of redressing the same characters over and over. Though I still did enjoy my time in “Tomorrow’s Treasure” and the two books that followed. Again, mostly for the history. She takes on South African jewel stuff in that series. I hadn’t read Thursday’s Child (but read a few others), so I’ll have to pick that one up. I think I can loan it from my library.

    Nancy Rue’s name sounds super familiar (from a long time ago…) – I’ll have to look into her books and remind myself. I have positive feelings associated with the name, so I think I read some…and think I liked them. Thanks for dropping her name! Especially since I’ve got a reading daughter, now… Always looking for safe stuff for this voracious (but young) reader to read!

    As a side note, I love going back and forth like this with you. I can’t stop laughing over the similarities.


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