Review by Nef.
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For many of us, the first four Obernewtyn Chronicles
are a separate group, set apart from the later books of the series. Given the long gap between these four books and the later books, Obernewtyn
were read together (more or less) during adolescence; by the time The Stone Key
was released, we had left adolescence behind us and grown up (supposedly). Thus, these books are a distinct part of our childhood.
As a result of this separation, the four books can be characterised as people we knew at high school. Obernewtyn
was that BFF you met on your first day of school, scared and unsure, and are still in daily contact with; The Farseekers
is the person who invited to your first party and is still a facebook friend; Ashling
was your first crush; and The Keeping Place
...was the strange kid in your class who used to pee in the local swimming pool and was famous for once spewing in his hands and playing with the vomit.
To be fair, that description is not entirely justified. Back then, we seemed to not like the book as much because a lot of … nothing seemed to happen. The first three books are all about Elspeth running off on a quest with little to no planning, generally autonomously. In TKP
, stuff happens, but it’s not quite as exciting as previous stuff as there’s a lot of discussion about doing said stuff, which is never as exciting as jumping on an equine companion and haring off into the night.
Here’s the thing about TKP
: there is a LOT going on in the Ober-chrons, and TKP
is the point in the story at which it regroups. In Ashling
, there’s a lot of action and a great many plates are set spinning on sticks, but those sticks are not embedded in any sort of foundation. In TKP
, therefore, a lot of re-introduction is needed, not only to the land, but to the characters we’ve met previously, and also to the manner in which Obernewtyn operates now that it is fully developed. We really don’t see that much of Obernewtyn in the previous two books, so it’s nice to be back to see Obernewtyn all grown up.
I have to admit, I hadn’t read TKP
for a LONG time before starting this review - I gave not a few people some moments of hilarity when I posted what I thought had happened. Re-reading was rather an interesting experience.
Basic plot: Elspeth’s moping around Obernewtyn, just chillin’ for a change. Rushton’s away, but there’s a moonfair coming and when Rushton comes back they’re going to eat cheese and go swimming. It’s a bummer that Matthew’s all kidnapped by slavers and Dameon’s off riding Kamuli in the desert and Dragon’s inexplicably comatose and people are being attacked in their dreams by a monster (that is strangely dragon-shaped), but she’s going to eat CHEESE!
Oh, and she’s studying for saving the land, because apparently she and the other misfits have been playing at being rebels in the past few books without really knowing much about the Council and the Herders: who they are, the structure of their organisations, and so on. We the readers get a massive information dump at the beginning of the book as Elspeth runs a heap of Ober-Corporation style meetings where everyone gives acting CEO Elspeth outlines of what they are doing/studying. What an amazingly useful coincidence!
But focus on the cheese, people, I beg you.
THEN a bird comes and tells them (disappointingly, via a note on its leg and not in beastspeak … because it’s dead) that tragedy has struck: Rushton has been kidnapped. The note goes on to say that if they don’t help the rebellion about to take place, Rushton’s gonna get it (get what, I’m not sure ... a rubber chicken, perhaps?)!
Apparently, the rebellion has been going on apace. The plans are in motion, but things are not as peachy as they seem – it seems to be an open secret that there is a traitor in the ranks. How the misfits know this is troubling: after their underwhelming showing at the battlegames, the misfits decided to turn hippy, making friendship bracelets and living off mushrooms (except Miryum and her cadre of Arthurian Knight wannabes), and in this vein, Rushton had decided not to help the rebels. So how is this treachery so well known?
To meet the demands of the kidnapper, who may or may not be Domick (perish the thought), the misfits' compromise is to foray into the telecommunication sector – they offer to keep the rebels in contact with one another and promise to find the traitor in their midst. Some like the idea more than others, and the nefarious Malik seems to have evil plans – you know this because he and his mates are wearing the herders’ demon bands that prevent misfits reading their thoughts.
In the quest to free Rushton, the misfits find treachery, ambush, unexpected allies and learn the true extent of the horrors the herder faction perpetrated. And they find Rushton too, though he’s not as he was …
Heart broken and tired, Elspeth returns to Obernewtyn and curls up next to Rushton and finds out where people in a coma go. She has to figure out how to wake them up, both for their sake and for the sake of her quest …
It recently struck me that this was the first Oberchron I ever got to fangirl with someone about (and if you ever read this Rebekah, Hello!). The previous books I read alone, which really brought home to me Elspeth’s lonely situation. Strangely, as Elspeth’s social circle at Obernewtyn expanded, so did my own Ober-centric friend group. AWWWW
I know that I didn’t much like the cover, me being a dyed in the wode Connell Lee fan (and this being the first book without a cover by him), and I’ve always resented the fact that my collection doesn’t match – to me there is something very evocative about those covers - I see them and I'm 13 again. Sigh
I really enjoyed re-reading the book, there’s so much more to it that you remember – not in the sense of action, but there's a gentle slow-burning building action: SOMETHING is coming, and we’re waiting for it. AND we get to see Swallow, who is Awesome (just for you Deb). There were, however, two things that really irked me.
Firstly, Elspeth is WAAAAAAAY too calm about the giant Elspeth-head under Tor (and so is everyone else). There’s a moment of "WTF?", then they are all like “meh, whatever”. In real life (should the world be destroyed by nuclear war and the continents shift dramatically and mental powers manifest in future humans) people would be freaking out that there’s a ancient giant statue of one of their mates. It should have been the hot gossip at Obernewtyn by the time Elspeth got back there – but it’s never mentioned again! Why not?
Secondly, Dameon. To all you shippers out there, my apologies, but I kept reading EVERYTHING he said in two ways: the upfront “I’m a nice guy” way, and the girlfriend stealing “I’m going to hang around until I’m in with a chance” way. I couldn’t help it! I saw double meanings everywhere (even where they may not have existed) and it made me really not like Dameon.
But, do you know what irked me the most? No one ever got to eat the cheese! Elspeth ups the cheese big time (saving it for Rushton specially), but at the end when she and Rushton are planning an outing, WHERE IS IT? Does no one ever think of the struggling dairy products trying to make a living?
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