Reading The People of Sparks and then The Dreaming Place got me into a YA mood, making me conquer my I’m-so-worried-about-what-will-happen-to-Elspeth collywobbles and I picked up Ashling, the next in Isobelle Carmody’s Chronicles of Obernewtyn. This is a great addition to the story, flowing along at a steady pace and shifting location and focus several times. That meant I stayed interested and didn’t have time to stress too much about Elspeth, concentrating on the story instead.
Elspeth rescues a gypsy woman who is about to be burned by Herders and sets in motion a most unexpected adventure. When the woman fails to recover at Obernewtyn, the futureteller Maryon, dreams that Elspeth must venture to Sutrium and return the gypsy to her people within a week or die in the attempt. Joined by several others, Elspeth begins the journey south, along the way learning about the Twentyfamilies gypsies – who appear to have some kind of link to ancient Beforetime enemies of Talents – and eventually travelling to the neighbouring country of Sador to be tested to see if the Misfits can work with the growing rebels groups who want to overthrow the Council. Tied in to all this are growing hints about the Beforetime and what led to the Great White as well as indications of Elspeth’s future as the Seeker, destined to find and destroy the remaining Beforetime weaponmachines.
Oh, I loved this book. It was a perfect blend of thee things – a compelling current time adventure, reminders of the future that still waits for Elspeth and how she can reconcile it with the present, and a fascinating mystery about the Beforetime, what happened, what it all meant and how it will continue to affect characters in the present time. These things hit all my buttons beautifully, so the book was ideal for me. Personally, while actual apocalyptic fiction interests me, I prefer a more distant post-apocalyptic fiction where I get to enjoy the current story and figure out what the apocalypse in question was and how it happened. This book (and the entire series as a whole) gives it to me in spades.
Elspeth remains an interesting character; she’s strong and resourceful without being too perfect. She isn’t happy to be an instrument of fate, although she is working towards accepting it. Her developing relationship – or lack thereof – with Rushton is love and contains all the contradictions one might expect from a late teen. And through it all, she rises to the challenges that face her one by one and finds the necessary solutions.
The other characters in this book are less developed, more because they are not some much the focus of the tale than because Carmody has chosen to do less work with them. This book, and the entire series really, is Elspeth’s tale and the spotlight is on her, with the other characters acting in supporting roles.
The story of the Beforetime is also coming into focus. For me, this is huge part of the attraction to Ashling. As I said above, I really enjoy piecing together the remnants of the past to try to figure out what the world was like before. It’s more fun than just getting the directly told story of the apocalypse. Carmody is giving me everything I could want. So far, Elspeth herself is curious but not desperately interested in the Beforetime, but the book seems to be suggesting that it is going to become more and more important. This will certainly be true for the readers, but I suspect it may be for the characters as well. Of course, Elspeth and her fellow characters are more interested in the world they have to live in and its future, but to tell a complete tale, Carmody is building the story of the Beforetime and how it ending in the Great White, I am guessing to bring the tale full circle when Elspeth finally sets out on her quest to destroy the weaponmachines and prevent a new Great White. It would certainly provide an lovely symmetry to the thematic explorations of the series.
I found, as Carmody dropped all her hints, I was constantly annotating my ebook, mostly just highlighting passages, but also adding a few notes. While I hope to keep the annotations with the book, I know how easy it is for me to delete something easily (which is why I have a backup directly where I keep all my ebooks safe for future reading), so I wanted to copy those notes somewhere. I started out thinking of a Word document, but then decided ‘what the heck’ and started up a new blog where I’ll make a backup record of any notes and theories I might have. I figure it’ll also be a good place to use if I ever want to add spoilers to any of my reviews. If it sounds interesting to you (probably only if your read/are reading any of the books I discuss) the link is: Spoilers, Notes and Theories.
As I had already indicated, this series is pushing all my buttons and I’m really enjoying it. If your buttons are different, it may not resonate as much, but this is still an excellent series and well worth stretching your boundaries for. However, this is very much an on-going tale rather than a series of linked individual stories, for all that the action within each book is complete. I highly recommend starting with the first book in the series, Obernewtyn.
Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 3
Notes and comments for Ashling