I read this book yesterday. I started and just didn't want to stop.
This is for a number of reasons.
I guess one is the pace. Catanese hits the ground running and never
really lets up. I can't think of any point in the book where I
thought, "Well, here is a good place to stop and I'll come back
later." The story is compelling and the way it unfolds keeps the
reader pulled in tight. I just kept turning pages, eager to find out
what was next.
The tale that is woven includes a large number of unknowns, or
mysteries if you will. Here again I am incredibly appreciative of the
skill the author brings into play. Some stories can be infuriating as
they constantly remind the reader that there are things they don't
know, yet never give up anything. Catanese creates intriguing unknowns
but also constantly feeds new information that lets the reader
actively participate in the unfolding of the story. I had a great time
figuring out what was going on and working through the clues. At the
same time, Catanese doesn't just spill it all out and there are some
very fun surprises.
The characters have a significant level of depth. They interact in an
honest fashion that has a strong sense of reality to it. All of this
takes place though in an utterly fantastic setting of magic and
wonderful steam punk inspired technology. (I wouldn't call this a
steam punk story but there are little flashes of it that I loved.)
This is fully fantasy but grounded in very real issues of humanity.
I hate to try and figure out an appropriate age for a child to read a
book. Every person is so very different. My ten year old is reading
"Happenstance Found" right now and loves it. I think she may find
portions to be a bit scary and we'll talk over some of the more
serious issues the book raises. I think this is a great book to get a
child thinking while keeping them entertained with a rollicking story
in a fantastic setting.
There is murder, monsters and high tension. Anyone who isn't sure if
it is right for their child could read it first to be sure. It is a
quick yet incredibly fun thing to do anyway. It would also help a
parent to be able to talk over it all with their child. There are some
great lessons to be learned here.
As an adult I found some of the vocabulary a touch simplistic and some
of the foreshadowing a bit heavy handed at times. That said, I loved
the book and started the sequel today. I kept thinking that if I had
read this as a youngster it would stand solid as one of my favorites
and I would have reread it many times over the years. If I haven't
been clear enough already, this is a well crafted tale.
Speaking of craft, there are a couple conventions used in the book
itself that I really enjoyed. Major characters in the book are
represented at the beginning of each chapter by a small picture. The
picture that is shown, corresponds with that character appearing in
and often playing a major role in that chapter. I thought this was
another subtle, yet nice way to give a nod as to how things were
heading. Especially in what I thought was the most frightening
chapters at the end, it would give a child a little heads up and time
to prepare. (It's a scary picture in its own right.) Sometimes I did
miss them though, since I moved so quickly to start reading the next
chapter so that I could see what happened next.
At the end of each chapter, we get to read small excerpts from the
books that a primary character, Umber, has written. They complement
the story and are not essential but provide a nice fleshing out of the
wider context. I really enjoyed these snippets about the world we are
beginning to explore alongside Happenstance.
This is the first in a series. While there are some rather satisfying
reveals by the end, there are still more unknowns than knowns. I
wouldn't consider this a book that could stand completely alone. This
isn't a bad thing, just know that finishing it will leave the reader
wanting to have the next book available as soon as possible. I have a
feeling when I finish the second in the series, it will be the same
way and I have no idea what the wait will be for the next. As it will
be longer than a day or two, it is going to be too long.
I can't recommend this book enough to any youngster looking for a
great fantasy to read.