OK, EVERYONE, I NEED HELP. I’ve always called Humphrey’s story The Way West, even promoted it as such in the paperback, but I find not one, but TWO books came out in October and December, with the same title. Different genres, and both western US trail type books, but I need help in finding a new title for Humphrey’s book. This is the one I put in installments on here last summer. I must admit it’s hard to find the start of it…yes, start here! (then they link together)
Humphrey is settled in a cave in a forest, where he has found safety after escaping from the totalitarian regime at Arbor (see Princelings and the Lost City). He has a number of hidden talents – he remembers everything he reads and can play back events and reread books in his head. He can hear very long distances, and through walls and rock. We will also find he has the talent of princes – to make a castle respond to his stated need. However his forest is not safe – people come to trap him – so he heads west once more, as he has done since he left Arbor, just as his mother advised him before he escaped.
His next ‘safe place’ is nearer to civilisation, but during the night he is caught up in a stampede as exiles and other stateless people are driven over hill and dale by persons unknown. Humphrey escapes with some others, and they make their way to a safe haven under a hill with a crowd of others. Here Humphrey makes friends with Hywell, Betty and Freya and starts going on trips with them, acquiring things in the countryside and bartering them in the market. On their return from one trip they are ambushed by ex-pirates, and then by other things that may or may not be vampires.
They find refuge in White Horse castle, which they enter through a secret passage, thanks to Humphrey. They manage to infiltrate the castle posing as visitors from Castle Fortune. Humphrey finds everything he could want in this castle – books, warmth, food… They arrive in time for the Festival, but an ‘accident’ in the Strong Man contest leads to increased security, and his nervous companions decide to leave while they still can. Arriving back at the hill, they find their former comrades have disappeared. They are captured, but soon freed, by a small, sick band of ex-pirates. Hywel seems to be sufferng from the same malady and Betty tends him. Humphrey is spooked by being unable to use his special powers of hearing under the hill – something is blocking him, and that, together with the call of the library and a promised Narrathon at the castle, draws him back. The Narrathon is cruelly interrupted by an explosion in the courtyard and Humphrey responds, with others, to a telepathic call to safety in time to avoid it. He is recruited into White Horse’s special Talent Squad, and along with Winston, Bertie and Glory, he finds himself with people who understand him at last.
The squad are quickly trained for special duties and despatched on their first mission. They are successful to a point: only Humphrey returns with the much-needed information on plans for attack by Castle Deeping, but the others are captured. Two or three days later, the other castle and its strangely augmented forces attack, to be repelled at great cost. A return assault on Castle Deeping and its ally, Castle Forest, leads to the destruction of Castle Forest by its own king’s order, and Humphrey’s hearing is damaged in the blast. Despite being detailed to the sick party to return to White Horse, he ends up at Deeping Castle, where he leads the lords of White Horse to discover the atrocities perpetrated in the dungeons under the castle. Humphrey realises his friends are being kept elsewhere, and manages to save them, with the unwitting help of Betty, who has turned out to be The White Ninja, a deadly double agent.
Finally, Humphrey and his friends journey with the Lord of White Horse to show the evidence of Deeping’s duplicity to the realms’ lawmakers, only to be set upon in the woods. Freya appears at the head of a shadowy gang who assist them in driving off their vampire assailants, and helps them prove their case to the Powers that Be, so that Deeping is prevented from taking arms against them for the foreseeable future. Humphrey settles at White Horse with his friends, and the library.
I’ve been racking my brains for an alterntive title. I keep trying things like Humphrey’s Special Talents, which gets the thumbs down from my friends.
Two that aren’t too bad:
- Autumn of Discontent
- The Listening Post
and my first subsitute: Humphrey’s Way West
Any ideas? All welcome!