Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Elspeth is an orphaned misfit, born with mysterious mental abilities said to have been brought about by The Great White, an apocalyptic event that ended the Beforetime and spared only those in far-flung rural communities. Elspeth must hide these abilities or risk being burned to death (like her parents were) by the fanatic rulers who claim The Great White was meant as Lud’s (God’s) punishment and who seek to destroy anything or anyone different. When she is exiled to the mountain compound for misfits known as Obernewtyn, Elspeth comes against forces that even she, with all her powers, may not be able to escape.

I first got really excited about reading this thanks to Rhiannon Hart’s review where she said “It's like the Goldilocks of books: everything is juuuuuuuuuust right.” And come on, how could I resist a book with not only a cat on the cover, but a main character who can converse with cats (as well as all other animals). I’m so envious!

For the most part, this 1987 novel lived up to my expectations. The world is described just enough to get you up to speed, but not so much that it suffocates you with unnecessary detail. The plot, with its focus on a group of misfits that can ‘true dream” sometimes seems like it is going to veer off into some mystical mumbo-jumbo, but the denouement is actually quite clever and logical in the framework of the post-apocalyptic landscape.

And Elspeth – I just loved her. For all her paranormal gifts, she comes off as remarkably normal and relatable. She’s not shy, but she’s cautious. She’s curious, but not demanding. She may just be the most powerful person on the planet, but she’s humble.

The only aspect I found lacking really was the cartoonish way the villains were portrayed, and the two-dimensional quality of some of the supporting players. Madam Vega, in particular, had so much potential, but her character just didn’t go anywhere which was a big disappointment.

Of course, it is always possible that at least some of these characters will be fleshed out better during the course of the series – after all there are 5 more books already out with 2 more planned for an October 2010 release (pictured). Find out more about them at Obernewtyn.net.


My Rating – 4 Zombie Chickens: An Excellent Example of the Dystopian Genre



See Index of All Dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore

22 comments:

La Coccinelle said...

This sounds like an interesting series! But I've got such a big TBR pile already...

ninefly said...

ah, i've forgotten how obsessed with animal-talker stories, but this sounds like an amazing way to get back into them again =D
the 2D villains will probably bother me, but...talking to animals! lol
thanks for the review!

Becky said...

Awesome review! I really want to read this now. Sounds just like my kind of thing!

bermudaonion said...

The book sounds great and I just love the cover!

Amanda said...

The Obernewtyn Chronicles are massive in Australian YA/dystopic readers' circles. Indeed, Obernewtyn has been used in the high school curriculum here for a while.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this series and have introduced it to many new readers!

Marie said...

Elspeth is such a pretty name. The book sounds like fun :-)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, you kinda had me at the cat stuff. But 7 more books? That is almost a marriage-type commitment. You would definitely have to love it to get through that many books!

Staci said...

This sounds like a great series to read. The covers are very cool and I love the way you described the main character. 4 is a very high rating!

Michelle said...

Ha! That's hilarious because I read this one because of Rhiannon's review too!

Alyce said...

This is not a book I would normally be drawn to, but all of the elements together appeal to me. I'll have to give this one a try.

Lenore said...

Sandy - The first book is quite satisfying in itself, so no need to continue the series if you don't want to!

Michelle - Rhi has the power!

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

I've come across these books a time or two, and have been intrigued by them. (Even put the first one on my Bookmooch wishlist) Not managed to grab a copy yet though. Other books keep leapfrogging in front of them. Still it's good to know this one at least meets most of the good things I've heard about them.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I read this one and really enjoyed it, although like you I thought it could have been more fleshed out. The books seem to get bigger as the series go though, so I'm sure we'll get to know more about it all!

NotNessie (Today's Adventure) said...

I've never heard of this series, so thanks for reviewing! I'll have to see if I can find a copy.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

I really struggled to get through this one. I'm not sure if it was just my mood at the time or what, but I ended up skipping a lot of it. I think I'd like to go back and visit it again sometime, since the world was intriguing.

Misty said...

I love this cover. Did I somehow miss this, or am I blocking things out, 'cause I don't recall seeing this on Rhiannon's... Hmm.

Yan said...

I had this review starred...hmmm trying to figure out why...I think it might have to do with your update on goodreads about the cat xD

Zibilee said...

I like the cover of this book and the synopsis you provided sounds wonderful! I am going to try to check this one out. You have been wowing me with all your selections this month!!

Christy (A Good Stopping Point) said...

Just wanted to comment and say that I'm really enjoying Dystopian February. I'm getting a lot of good recommendations here. :)

Pam said...

Oh this sounds amazing.

Erin said...

I've loved Isobelle Carmody's books for a long time, and I'm so excited that they're getting reprinted here in the US (including the onese that were never published here to begin with) with such lovely covers.

This is the first place I've really seen blog buzz for them though...I hope they do well enough to stay in print over here for awhile.

katie said...

Hi fellow Isobelle Fans!

I want to invite you all to come see a play based on Isobelle Carmody's short story, THE PHOENIX, at Yale Summer Cabaret this July.

Isobelle is really excited about the play, as are we.

Buy tickets at www.summercabaret.org!

- Katie