Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln are all "hard cases" from the 24th century. They are spoiled, lazy, and resilient to the lessons that the elders of their society try to teach. In a desperate measure to get the teens to learn from their mistakes, they are whisked away to History Camp--a reenactment of some of the hardest times from history. History Camps are designed to teach even the hardest 24th century kids a lesson about the past. Unfortunately, Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln are too smart for their own good; they manage to disrupt the "lesson." Thinking that they have successfully interrupted the History Camp Elder's plans, the three teens are surprised to find themselves being approached by a time-traveling man. This man--Artemis--transports (i.e. kidnaps) the teens to the real 14th century Verona, Italy.
Suddenly the teens aren't as interested in causing mischief as they are in their own survival. Life in Verona during 1347 is much different from anything they have ever experienced! Luckily, they have the help of Pan and knowledge of future technologies to make their new lives easier. However, they learn that all knowledge comes with a price--an extremely high price. When things go terribly wrong, and they find themselves permanently trapped in 1347, the three teens are forced to find a way to survive, even if it means disrupting the course of history.
The premise of this story was fascinating. It reminded me of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. In Lory Kaufman's book, The Lens and the Looker, three incredibly spoiled teens find themselves reaching "the last straw" with the adults in their 24th century society. Being the arrogant teenagers they are they go off to History Camp with the sole purpose to torment the adults, instead of learning any valuable life lessons. There wasn't a lot of attention given to the future world since the majority of the story takes place in the past. I was very impressed with the amount of detail that went in to creating 1347 Verona, Italy. The descriptions of the characters were fantastic--even when the descriptions were revolting! This story was a post-dystopian sci-fi read with a hint of historical fiction thrown in. A very interesting combination!
If you're wondering about the pacing, it was quick and steady. The first few chapters were interesting, but they were slow in comparison to the remainder of the story. I would have liked to have had some resolution with the character Ugilino at the end of the book. Having him scurry off to the medicine woman and then not being mentioned again was a little disappointing. Since this is the first book in a series, I'm sure he will resurface in the next book. I also liked that the characters did learn lessons throughout the story, and they didn't all learn them at the same time. Each character had a different challenge to work out and come to terms with. Watching them struggle throughout the story made them very believable. On a side note, the Italian used in the book was impressive. I'm glad Pan was there to translate for me, or else I would have been very confused!
Overall, this was a well-written, fast paced science fiction read. I'm not typically a fan of science fiction, but I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about 14th century Verona and lens making (who knew books could teach you things!). I liked how the book didn't feel like science fiction; it was more historical fiction with a few "out there" twists thrown in. This gets a solid 4 from me. The second book is already finished (I couldn't help but read the snippets at the end), and it looks even better!