Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
Review by Joshua S Hill
When you put your mind to considering some of the greatest writers of the English language, it is a source of continuing pity that Isobelle Carmody’s name is not up there along with some of the greats like Tolkien, Lewis and Hemmingway. Though some of her work has been criticized, writing science fiction, fantasy, children’s and young adult literature, Carmody is probably most well known and praised for her work on the Obernewtyn Chronicles.
And for good reason; these books are a class above much else that I have ever read.
Started at the age of fourteen, Carmody continued to work on the books while completing a Bachelor of Arts, where she majored in literature and philosophy. But I’m not here to talk about Carmody’s personal life, but rather the first book in her Obernewtyn Chronicles series, aptly named, Obernewtyn.
Set many years into the future on a world that has been ravaged by a nuclear holocaust known as the Great White, Elspeth Gordie, an orphan, is found to have special powers. Not alone in this, she is quickly discovered and sent off to Obernewtyn, a councilfarm known to many as a place where people with her abilities go, but never return.
But Obernewtyn is definitely not what it seems, and Elspeth soon begins to plan an escape, for herself, and for her fellow Misfits, the name given to all those unlucky enough to have been affected by the Great White and developed mental powers.
Nothing as corny as being able to levitate a spoon with one’s mind is at play here. Carmody manages to – generally – expand upon current day gifts and talents, and give them a greater power.
But the rulers of Obernewtyn have other plans for the Misfits, in their attempt to find Beforetime weapons. Ruthless, quick to use and manipulate others – especially Misfits – and with no compunctions for doing so, these villains run havoc throughout the story.
Carmody uses a series of literary devices to enhance an already brilliant story. Carmody bastardizes words, giving the appearance that scraps of information have made it through from before the nuclear holocaust, but not the entirety. This idea, used most obviously for the language, is also put to use in the peoples knowledge of the world, and how their place in it.
Told from the perspective of Elspeth Gordie, the reader is quickly asked to become attached to the protagonist, and the horrors and suffering she must face. And Carmody deftly brings reader and character together; binding us together with writing that is sublime to read. It is not just the dangers that Elspeth encounters that engender her to the reader; Carmody’s ability to write well – a trait more often lacking than not – ensures that the reader is invested in Elspeth’s fate.
The first of a series, Obernewtyn almost doesn’t suffer from the quirks that an author’s early works can sometimes fall victim too. So passionate, skillful and clever, Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn is a pleasure to read, and one that belongs on any true readers shelf.
For more information on Isobelle Carmody and free downloads visit www.obernewtyn.co.uk.
Really good! You can completely relate to the character and the plot is unique. I would highly recomend this brilliant book!
Ryan from Newcastle, Australia
This was the first fantasy book I ever read, and after re-reading it last year it is still up there as one of my favourites. Despite being original marketed as young adult fantasy, the story resonates with me as an adult and I can't wait for the story to be completed later this year with The Sending.
Emma from Liverpool, UK
I'm giving this 9 rather than 10 out of 10 only because the sequels are so much better than the first book that I have to leave a star for them! Elspeth is a brilliant, well written and complex lead character, and the other characters are generally also superb. The plots are interesting and gripping, and always leave you desperate to read the next in the series. The Obernewtyn Chronicles are easily my favourite book series ever, and I think it's a real shame that Carmody isn't well known here in the UK. At least she gets the aclaim she deserves in her home country Australia.
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