Reviews for Happenstance Found

Booklist Reviews 2009 April #1
"Happenstance wakes suddenly in a dark corner of a crumbling maze, blindfolded and bound, and realizes he has no memories. He is retrieved by Lord Umber, a collector of rarities, who has too many memories of a life to which he cannot return and to which he is bound by tragedy. Umber has been told that Hap is the key to saving a dying Earth, but only if they can keep him alive long enough to discover how. In this new series, The Books of Umber, Catonese departs from the fairy-tale retellings of his Further Adventures series to create an intriguing intergenerational partnership set in a fantasy world that tantalizes with glimpses of modern-day technology. Chapters are introduced by snippets from Umber s notebooks and small drawings of the characters, which include a hook-handed illustrator/archer, a gruesome villain, and a boat-bearing whale. Try this with fans of Eragon (2003) or Jeanne DuPrau s Ember books, or readers seeking an engaging and deftly written fantasy unpopulated by vampires or fairies."

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #1
Happenstance wakes feeling "as if he'd emerged, fully conscious and wholly formed, out of nothing." In this first volume of The Books of Umber, he attempts to discover what, why, and who he is. Whisked away from an erupting volcano by Lord Umber, a mysterious explorer, inventor, and merchant, Hap moves into Umber's tower home, the Aerie, and submits to Umber's efforts to retrieve Hap's memory. Hap also wants to know what was in the message he handed over to Umber when they first met -- a message from an unknown "WN" about a terrible enemy who will stalk and try to kill Hap. Thanks to Umber's vast knowledge and resources, Hap does discover his species and purpose, but it's due to his own curiosity and courage that he begins to explore the kind of person he might be. Catanese's forte is in defining the features of the colorful imaginary world he creates, which is part steampunk, part fairy tale, and has a surprising contemporary twist. Mer-people, leviathans, and sorceresses mingle with Mozart, mirrors, and elevators in this unusual culture. Simple, declarative sentences and an emphasis on appearances give the story a cinematic quality that will be enjoyed by a wide range of fantasy readers. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #1
The beginning of a moderately engaging fantasy series employs a number of tropes readers will find familiar--perhaps irritatingly so. Happenstance--Hap--appears in a world he doesn't know. He has no memories but a lot of languages, and he does not need to sleep. He is found by the wildly curious, intensely aware and distinctly manic-depressive Lord Umber, who clearly has a plan for Hap. The pair travels to Umber's city of Kurahaven with the help of three unlikely and elaborately contrived characters. In Kurahaven, the action slows a bit while Hap learns about the world, discovers a few of his talents and sees the effect his startlingly green eyes have upon the populace. The climax, which involves a rockslide and a race down a collapsing stairwell and crumbling walls into the sea, comes straight from Indiana Jones. There's a little bit of preaching, especially when Umber explains his own origins, and barely a pause without resolution at the end to prepare readers for the next installment. (Fantasy. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 January #1

Catanese (the Further Tales Adventures) dazzles in the first of the planned Books of Umber series by wittily subverting genre tropes. Happenstance, a boy with strange green eyes, wakes up in a cave with no memories of who he is or anything about the fantastic world in which he lives. He soon encounters Lord Umber, an adventurer who seems familiar with our world as well as his own, and his two companions--a brute cursed to be forever truthful and a one-handed artist and archer. En route to Umber's home, they discover that Hap can see in the dark, leap many feet in the air, speak numerous languages and go without sleep. As the group attempts to learn about his origins, they're forced to confront a supernatural assassin and secrets from Umber's own mysterious past. Catanese packs a lot into the book: rich characterizations (Umber, who turns out to be from another dimension, suffers from depression and wishes he had his meds), well-choreographed action sequences and genuinely surprising twists at the end. As auspicious start to the series. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 May

Gr 5-8--Happenstance Found, 12, does not remember who he is, where he came from, or any details of his former life. He wakes up in an underground cavern, accompanied by a mysterious stranger who refuses to tell him anything about his origins. The stranger hands Hap over to personable, yet in many ways equally mysterious, Lord Umber. Acting on the stranger's advice, Umber invites Hap to join his company. They immediately meet with adventure and danger, and Hap learns that Umber is a man of diverse talents and boundless curiosity. Umber discovers that Hap can see in total darkness, jump to extraordinary heights, and sense when momentous events are about to occur. Hap is also being pursued by a menacing figure, which he and his companions dub "the Creep." In the final conflict with this character, Hap's ingenuity, abilities, and loyalty are tested. He triumphs over his adversary, but enough tantalizing loose ends are left to be resolved in the sequel. Though some may lament the uneven characterization, there's plenty of adventure and mystery to appeal to fans of Catanese's earlier works.--Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY

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