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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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.--Welch, Cindy Copyright 2009 Booklist