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Happenstance Found (Books of Umber Trilogy (Paperback)) Paperback – 23 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks; Reprint edition (23 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416953825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416953821
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,793,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Ancient Mariner TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Sept. 2015
Format: Paperback
Hey, have you heard this one before? -- A boy with no memory of his past joins a quirky band of wanderers and has exotic adventures while trying to find out more about his own history. Some world saving may be involved.

Well, of course you have. Nothing new here, one initially suspects. But one, (and stop referring to yourself as "one"), would be wrong. This is the fantasy adventure different, and even some pretty hoary old clichés feel fresh and interesting in Catanese's hands.

Wisely, the author has matched his earnest and sympathetic young hero, Happenstance, with a uniquely manic, (as in manic-depressive), older companion. Eschewing both the wise old Geezer Gandalf father figure approach and the comic sidekick approach, Catanese has created, in Lord Umber, a fantastic, compelling and fascinating Lord Byron, ("mad, bad and dangerous to know"), kind of character. This character dominates every page on which he appears. He's interesting when he drinks coffee. And like all great characters he elevates every other character around him. Compulsively truth-telling Oates is a funny Greek chorus to the action. Shy Sophie is a quiet and yet subtly charming presence. Umber makes this band of characters work, and he adds color to the overly earnest and sometimes bland official hero, Hap.

The book is loaded with interesting set pieces. Escaping the giant killer worm, sailing away on the Leviathan, and so on. This is all so clever, colorful and fresh that I wasn't at all concerned that the book was meandering about. It's pretty clear where it's all headed, and I was willing to predict how Book Three would end when I was half-way through this Book One, but I didn't mind. This book is loaded with vigorous, carefree, big-hearted, energetic writing and I just enjoyed the sunshine and cool breeze.
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By debhenri on 20 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted to buy a book for my son that was a bit off the beaten track, not the kind that's heavily promoted by every retail outlet you browse through/walk into. This one had few yet excellent reviews, and I think it deserves every star it has earned.
The writing style is very professional, descriptions are superb, characters are complex and well-rounded, and the dialogue is very apt for a most intriguing plot. Lots of originality (which is painfully absent in so many fantasy books these days).
P.W.Catanese obviously has a great deal of talent and, one day, will be given more of the praise that he deserves.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 32 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A new title from a favorite author 8 Feb. 2009
By Squid - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Happenstance Found is Book One in what I hope to be a great series.

Before I go on, I want to say that P. W. Cantanese is my favorite author of stores of fantasy and magical tales. I think that "A Mirror's Tale" is brilliant, and that "The Eye of the Warlock", and "The Riddle of the Gnome" are exciting and well crafted. I read all 5 of his books to my children (middle school aged - they loved each of these books too, but I have to admit that I always got caught reading ahead, having a hard time putting these books down. I don't understand why Cantanese is not a best selling author. His five "Further Tales" should be on every middle school's reading list. If I made movies - I would start here.

Now to the review, There are two main characters in the story. Happenstance, a boy who looks to be about 12, wakes in an underground ruins with no memory of any past, and a man named Umber who is brilliant, but seems to be manic - depressive; filled with exuberance most of the time, or smitten with a deep gloom.

The story starts well and then slows for much of the first half of this book. Even though there is vivid imagery, and strong characters, somehow the beginning of the story didn't hook me. The book seems to find a rhythm only about half way through. Sometimes authors spend the first part of a story doing the set-up, introducing characters and setting the stage so that when things get going - we are ready with a sufficient background for things to make sense. For example, Umber has a business partner that he almost cowers from as she is so demanding - but she is in only one scene of the story, and then does not reappear. Other characters are developed (i.e., the princes) - but then they seem to vanish from the plot. Certainly these characters will appear in latter other books, but they make the first part of this tale meander, and weaken the flow. About half way through the story picks up, and the mystery and the conflict come into focus.

I gave the book only a 4 star rating because of the slow beginning. I trust the story will continue to develop into the greatness of his other tales in the future Books of Umber. I am ready to begin reading Book 2 tomorrow - even though this First Book of Umber was only released a few weeks ago.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Much better than standard children's fare 11 Feb. 2010
By sq228mq5 - Published on
Format: Paperback
Picked this up at the library along with a batch of other children's books for my boys ages 10 and 12. I typically skim through these books to anticipate/find out what my kids might like and what they don't like. This book hooked me and I ended up reading it cover to cover. It has the quality prose, vivid descriptions and sophisticated plot development characteristic of a book aimed at adults. I recently read The First Law series - much more violent and adult-oriented - and was not at all bored by the first Book of Umber. My kids enjoyed it greatly and are now clamoring for the next installment.

Like a previous reviewer, I was surprised that this author is not better known. I expected this book to have the benefit of a lot more reviews than it does.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
An Awesome Fantasy Adventure 28 July 2009
By E. Tichenor - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I gotta tell you all how much I enjoyed this book. One of my favorite tween/teen reads of 2009 by far. Catanese creates a fascinating world for his characters to explore. The central characters are all well crafted and they are, best of all, funny and real. I also loved the implied connection between our world and the world of the story. It is safe to say that this should develop into an extraordinary series.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Exceptional in many regards 12 April 2010
By E. Peck - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A great new world of adventure! 10 Jun. 2010
By Charles S. Holzheimer - Published on
Verified Purchase
I initially picked up this book because I received book two, "Dragon Games" to review as part of the Vine Program at Amazon. I wanted to make sure I gave book two a fair shake so I went back and read book one.

Happenstance, or Hap to his soon to be friends, wakes up in a dungeon with no memory at all of his previous life. He doesn't even know what kind of being he is. In a world of sentient and semi-sentient creatures this is a huge concern for this young man. He is almost immediately rescued by Lord Umber and his band of adventurers.

The revelations come fast and furious as Hap tries to figure out not only anbout himself but also things about the people he is tossed in with as well as the world in which he now lives.

The characterizations are fun and a little shallow at first but with time and pages comes very satisfying character development. The writing by Catanese is light and easy to read. I would recommend this book for anyone from about 10 up. If you have ever read the Belgariad by David Eddings, you will find a similar light tone here in this book and at least the book that follows.

I highly encourage reading this book to anyone who likes fantasy.
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