The End of Time by P. W. Catanese (2011)

December 4, 2011 at 10:45 pm (fantasy, teen)

Book 3 of The Books of Umber.  I finished it and said, “This might possibly be the best series ending I have ever read.”

Never mind that it’s a YA series.  I keep telling you, you’re missing a lot if you wave it all off as “just kid stuff.”

I’m actually a big fan of Catanese’s work, though I’ve never gotten around to posting a review here before.  (If I reviewed everything I read, nothing else would get done.)  He’s got a whole series of at least five “what happened after the fairy tale” books that are just great.

The Umber series is distantly related to those, being set in possibly the same world of medieval technology, magic, and magical creatures.  It features, however, a man (Umber) who was transported from a future version of our world.  He’s working to provide useful cultural and technological items to his new world, but also has been given hope that he’ll be able to go back and save his old one from the violent end it was hurtling toward.

The apparent instrument of that salvation is Happenstance (known as Hap), a boy with startling green eyes and a variety of unusual powers.  The most unusual one is, in theory, the ability to perceive and manipulate people’s fates.   Umber has been advised to bring Hap along on all of his adventures, which are often quite hair-raising, but exactly why is not clear through most of the series.

The third volume presents the final working-out of at least three different plot threads that started back in the first volume, as well as a dangerous new element and (ta-da!) the resolution of the main plot.  The other characters – Sophie the one-handed artist, Oates the man cursed to always speak the truth, Smudge the archivist, and more – also make the book far more than just the adventures of Umber and Hap.

It also includes dragons, carnivorous plants, evil princes, dangerous sorceresses, an obsessed monster, and explosions.   Seriously, what’s not to like?

You’ll need to start with the first volume (Happenstance Found) to understand a bunch of the conclusion, though.  I can’t recommend it enough as a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy with elements of SF and serious ethical-philosophical concepts.  And it has a very, very good ending, too.


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