________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 11 . . . . November 11, 2011


The Lens and the Looker. (The Verona Trilogy: A History CAMP Story, Book 1).

Lory S. Kaufman.
Stamford, CT: The Fiction Studio, 2011.
322 pp., pbk. & e-book, $14.95 (pbk.), $2.99 (e-book).
ISBN 978-1-936558-02-5 (pbk.).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Rob Bittner.

** /4


The Bronze and the Brimstone. (The Verona Trilogy: A History CAMP Story, Book 2.

Lory S. Kaufman.
Stamford, CT: The Fiction Studio, 2011.
334 pp., pbk. & e-book, $14.95 (pbk.), $2.99 (e-book).
ISBN 978-1-936558-08-7 (pbk.).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Rob Bittner.

** /4



Hansum found it amazing to stand on the wall. With a full moon shining he could look over the countryside to the south for miles. Looking back over the city he could see all the church steeples, towers, tile roofs, smoke of many chimneys wafting up into the air, and even the top courses of the ancient Roman Arena. Guilietta leaned between two parapets and gazed up at the moon. Hansum stepped behind her and put his hands lightly on her arms.

“It’s a beautiful view,” she said.

“Si, and I have an especially beautiful view.” He saw Guilietta smile. Then a chill breeze came up and she shuddered. “It’s getting cold,” Hansum added. “We should get going . . .”

Guilietta spun around in Hansum’s arms and kissed him. It took Hansum a few moments to recover from his surprise, but when he did he responded well. They kissed long and hard, and soon Hansum was oblivious to the rest of the universe, his past, present and his future. All that existed for him was an undeniable intensity between the two. Hansum finally came up from his deep well of delicious drowning and looked into Guilietta’s eyes. He could now see in her that instant familiarity which each person instinctively craves. (From
The Lens and the Looker.)

The Lens and the Looker and The Bronze and the Brimstone are the first two books in Lory S. Kaufman’s “History CAMP” trilogy. The books follow three spoiled teenagers: Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln. The three teens are sent to a history camp where they are to be disciplined and learn lessons about the past to help them become more thoughtful people in the future. According to Kaufman’s website, “it’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences, have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full-sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts.” What the three teens were not expecting, however, was to be kidnapped by a time-travelling, toga-wearing, rhyming elder from the future, and taken to 14th-century Verona.

      Kaufman has created a unique and different take on time-travel and utopian society. Readers may find the historical nature of the text to be intriguing and the love story engaging; however, the representations of 14th-century Italians border on comic hyperbole. The characters appear more as Shakespearian buffoons speaking in strange accents at some points, actual Italian at other times, and then in colloquial English at yet others.

      Shamira, Hansum, and Lincoln are characters to whom some younger readers will relate, and they each have distinct positions within their group. Hansum is the leader, the one who adapts the most quickly to new situations, and he is the one who holds the group’s holographic helper, Pan. Shamira is independent and very artistic. She is also not afraid to speak her mind when it counts. Lincoln is the younger brother type. He is a smart-aleck and often gets himself into a lot of trouble, but he provides some comic relief.

      Unfortunately, the text gives very little reason for the reader to become invested in the narrative of the three protagonists. The Lens and the Looker begins immediately with Hansum being taken from school to a History Camp with very little explanation of his past, except to say that he is a good-looking, athletic trouble-maker. Lincoln and Shamira receive even less attention, with no explanation of family history, or reason given for why they are actually at the History Camp. With so few explanations, and with so little information provided, it is difficult to feel anything for the plight of the main characters. The Bronze and the Brimstone does little to redeem this shortfall of character development, leaning heavily on the plot, in which the teens introduce futuristic technology into 14th-century Verona.

      This series will appeal to those who want to read a comic and sarcastic account of futuristic teens transported to the past. If read primarily for escapism, the texts perform well. Kaufman could have created much deeper and more focussed works; instead, his narratives get bogged down in the many different genres he tries to pull together: post-dystopian, historical fiction, teen romance, suspense, and humour.

Recommended with reservations.

Rob Bittner has just completed his MA in Children’s and Young Adult Literature at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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