Happenstance (Hap) is 12 when he wakes up in a cave having no memory of his past. The extraordinary Lord Umber, a man who advises royalty, writes books and presents amazing new ideas in his land full of sorcery and strange creatures, finds Hap with the help of a secret adviser, and he takes the boy into his home. Hap meets Umber’s one-handed artist (Sophie), a bodyguard who is compelled by a curse to speak honestly at all times (Oates), an unfriendly housekeeper who secretly loves Umber (Lady Truden), an eccentric, unwashed historian who researches for Umber (Smudge), a kindly cook (Balfour) and a reclusive warrior just a few inches tall (Thimble). They all live under Umber’s roof. Hap finds that he is sometimes able to see a mysterious thread that leads him places. The reader does not know much about what this thread is. While Umber tries to piece together Hap’s origins, Umber’s crew battles and avoids the ghoulish, multi-eyed Occo (also called The Creep) who wants to capture Hap and extract his unique green eyes. Occo has many eye sockets and thinks he will be able to see magical threads, too, if he has Hap’s eyes. As book one ends, Occo is killed with the help of Umber’s crew. Readers learn that Umber is really from another world (that appears to be Earth), which has been destroyed by the misuse of technology. Umber is on a mission to restore his world to its past glory, and he enlists Hap’s help.