Isobelle Carmody Reviews: Obernewtyn, Book One in the Obernewtyn Chronicles

Review by Nef. Back to all Isobelle Carmody Book Reviews [hr][/hr] ObernewtynObernewtyn is where it all starts. The obsession, the fanigirling, and the destroyer pig’s bid to take over the world. Obernewtyn, the first book by Isobelle Carmody. It was first published in 1987, and is the captivating first instalment of the (still incomplete) fantasy series the Obernewtyn Chronicles. The world has changed. People living in the land know that: they live with the ruins of an ancient civilisation all around them; they live with the illness those tainted ruins causes to everyone who ventures too close; they kill their children born with mutations caused by the tainted land. Order is kept by the Council, who are ruthless in stamping out deformity, and quick to silence dissent. Orphaned after her parents are executed for treason by the draconian Council, there is only one thing Elspeth has left to fear: Obernewtyn. That mysterious place in the mountains where misfits (the name for people with mental mutations) are sent for treatment with Dr Seraphim … and never return. Elspeth knows that she is a misfit: she can hear the thoughts of people around her, and she can talk to her closest friend Maruman, a cat.  ObernewtynWhen the keeper of Obernewtyn comes to visit the orphan home, Elspeth's worst fear is realised as she is condemned to Obernewtyn. Once there, she finds it not at all what she expected.  But Obernewtyn is a place of secrets and rumours, and there is a danger that awaits Elspeth should she make the wrong move. Surrounded on all sides by enigmatic figures, from hostile farm hands and the mysterious Louis to the intimidating Keepers of Obernewtyn Alexi and Madam Vega and their pet Ariel, who can Elspeth trust? And with Dr Seraphim a half-wit, who is the real Master of Obernewtyn? How will Elspeth hide her talent from the keepers of Obernewtyn, and why do they need that talent? Elspeth needs to find out the answers she seeks, as the knowledge she gains will shape the course of her life … I think the thing that made me keep hold of book when I first picked it up (in 1996), was the quote by IC on the back cover:
I dream of those other worlds and other places where life is enchantingly complicated, more honourable, and where there is still room for noble deeds and great quests; a world in which even a misfit might become a hero.
ObernewtynThey don't put that quote on the books anymore (I checked my pretty new book), which is a bit of a shame. Seriously, who wouldn't want to read a book set in a world like that? At the time I first read Obernewtyn, I was moving to a new country with a new school to navigate – and I felt scared and out of place. I instantly connected with Elspeth, I was instantly submersed in her world, despite the strangeness of it (I had not really read spec-fic up until then), and I knew exactly what Elspeth was feeling.  I think many of us who pick up the book get that feeling of apprehension that Elspeth has about going to Obernewtyn, and from there we are hooked. Elspeth's story is about the one thing we dread (whatever it is) coming to pass, and everyone can relate to that. Elspeth has been like an old friend to me throughout my adolescence and into my adulthood. I can still pick up Obernewtyn, and straight away I am 12 years old again and frightened of a new school. I am a misfit, but in this world misfits have power. Whether you have a battered old copy of the book complete with those old typos, or a shiny new edited version, this is a book that will sink its claws into your mind like the Zebkrahn and have you farseeking the next book in the series. [hr][/hr] Back to all Isobelle Carmody Book Reviews