Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

I have a memory of standing in a bookstore in my hometown and seeing Obernewtyn on the shelf. I don't know exactly how long ago it was, but I'm pretty sure it was when this was a standalone book and not the first of six as it is now. I can't imagine why I didn't take it home with me as it was just the sort of book I loved at the time. Now, having read it many years later, I can safely say that it's the sort of book I love now as well.

This is a YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic world, significant generations after a disaster known as the Great White. While it is not clearly stated, the impression is given that this was a nuclear war. The main character and narrator is Elspeth who has telepathic mental powers. In the totalitarian society she lives in, such mutations are anathema and those that possess them are burned or sent away to the far north, to a place called Obernewtyn. When Elspeth is found out, she is taken to Obernewtyn, where she finds a dangerous place and others like herself.

Post-apocalyptic and telepathy; two favourite themes of mine. Again, I find myself wondering why I didn't read this book long ago. Elspeth is a pleasant heroine, well if not deeply developed and her adventures before and after being sent to Obernewtyn are well told. There are nicely dropped hints about the Beforetime and the blurbs of the later books suggest the truth of what happened in the past (and whether or not it might happen again) will become a significant part of the plotline.

Carmody's world is small in this book, focussed around the orphan's home where Elspeth first lives and later at Obernewtyn. I'm not a visual reader, so I didn't get a good picture of the world (one of the reasons I like maps, and a good one is provided in this book) but as the story was about Elspeth and Obernewtyn, this was not an issue. All the same, I look forward to learning more about the entire world as the hints were suitably teasing.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and while I'm sorry I didn't discover it sooner, I'm delighted to know there are more books in the series waiting for me to read them. I want to know what happens to Elspeth and her fellow Misfits next. With Obernewtyn so isolated, it's easy to get caught up in their story and forget about the harsh and dangerous world outside the walls.

Isobelle Carmody
Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 1

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