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.
I’m reviewing this as the entire trilogy, which I normally don’t do, but I read them in quick succession and felt like it would be better to just review this series as a whole rather than in parts. That being said, I adored the first book and its odd plot and many mysteries. I needed to know who Hap was and why he was different. I was hooked pretty early on in the series, and also enjoyed the cast of characters presented. Umber was the consummate lovable genius with a band of misfits as his friends. I moved on quickly through the second book, which resolved some things and brought up even more questions. I was still hooked and enjoying the world that I was beginning to feel comfortable in. Now, the third book deviates quite jarringly from the first two, so much so that I was left feeling bereft of the character growth that had happened in the first installments. Without divulging any spoilers, I will say that my level of disappointment was crushing. It felt like all the plot, the mystery, and the wants and needs of the protagonist were set up as a neat wholesome meal on a table and then quite deliberately wiped off the table to the ground. Dismayed at this turn of events, I cannot really recommend this book because the end was so unsatisfying, sad, and lackluster. It not only changed in tone and purpose, but felt rushed like the author had gotten tired of writing. I’m incredibly sad about this, and I do understand that decisions were made about the story that I’m sure he felt were right, but it ended up making this avid reader confused and let down.
I give it a 3 out of 5- if not for the ending it would’ve been much higher.