Book Review : The Books of Umber
By P. W. Catanese
Twelve-year-old Happenstance awakens in a cave with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. Soon a mysterious trio arrives to take him away: the explorer Umber, the shy archer Sophie, and Oates, whose strength and honesty are both brutal. Hap and his new acquaintances narrowly escape the cavernous underworld and make their way to Lord Umber’s bustling jewel of a harbor city, Kurahaven.
Once there, Hap learns that Lord Umber is an extraordinary man — he’s a merchant, adventurer, inventor, royal adviser, and chronicler of all things monstrous and magical. But Umber’s accomplishments can’t answer the question closest to the boy’s heart: Who is Happenstance?
Desperate to uncover clues in his new, baffling surroundings, Hap accompanies Umber on dangerous and unusual missions. But Hap soon learns that there are powerful enemies inside the kingdom, and a ruthless assassin is hot on his trail. Faced with many unknowns, Hap knows one thing is certain: There’s a reason Umber has chosen him…if only he could determine it.
P. W. Catanese’s richly spun fantasy chronicles one boy’s quest for answers and hope in a world riddled by knowledge and power corrupted.
Adult Point of View
I really enjoyed Happenstance Found! I always seem to come back to characters as a main reason for liking a book. This rule hold true here too.
Umber: He is part the bumbling professor, part Pollyanna and part brooding Mr. Darcy. Can you even imagine a person with such diverse characteristics? I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but Catanese pulls it off – and it’s even logical.
Oates: He is burdened to always tell the truth, though as Umber explains, it doesn’t mean he is always right. What a terrible fate, however, it has made him into a good man. How often can one say that a curse has improved one’s life? He said he wasn’t nice at one time so he is fiercely loyal to Umber for taking him in. He hopes to regain the ability to lie. Happenstance reassures him that it might be possible to not be cursed and still be a good person.
Happenstance: Also known as Hap. He is charming and innocent. I’m so hopeful for this young man. He is extraordinary, and he doesn’t even know what he can do – but he keeps discovering new talents. He is humble, sometimes sneaky and curious. He is much like other 12 year olds that you might know. I am particularly fond of his name because it is an old word that we don’t frequently use anymore. For someone not familiar with the word happenstance you could think of it as a coincidence, or a lucky chance or you just happened to be in a particular place at a particular moment and then IT happened. Do you think Happenstance was in that particular cave as a coincidence right when the treasure hunters arrived? Or is there something more to Happenstance? Maybe we should also ask WHAT is Happenstance? There certainly seem to be powerful forces at work here.
The monster chasing Hap: I haven’t named him intentionally – I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll just say he made my skin crawl. Even though there is not a lot of time spent on his character development the reader will understand exactly what he is after and why before the book ends. Just add one more shiver as you think of him again.
I think this is a great book for the tween to young teen crowd. It doesn’t get too serious, I laughed frequently and I could easily identify with the characters. There is a mystery that pieces are found, but the puzzle isn’t done yet. I will want to read the next one in the series!
4 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you like this one and haven’t tried J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, please, please, please give it a try. I finally convinced my youngest to read the first book (with a monetary bribe, if you can image I would stoop to something so low) and he has loved it!
Other books to try would be Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Janitors by Tyler Whitesides and one of my all time favorites The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.
Another favorite of my tweens has been the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans.