Thursday, July 8, 2010

Obernewtyn - Isobelle Carmody

Obernewtyn is the first book of The Obernewtyn Chronicles. It is written by the successful Australian author Isobelle Carmody. Set in a world suffering from the effects of nuclear holocaust, it introduces Elspeth Gordie a young orphan who fears being executed because of her mysterious mental powers. The world Elspeth lives in is ruled by the corrupt Council with the help of a fanatical religious order called the Herder Faction. They gained a tight hold over the people after the holocaust, which is referred to as the Great White. The Herder Faction teaches that the holocaust was a punishment from God to the people who lived before it and artifacts from before the holocaust are considered dangerous and destroyed. Anyone who opposes the Council and the Herder Faction is burnt or used as slave labour. The after effects of the holocaust cause some people to be born with ‘mutations’ of the body and mind. These mutations are feared by the Council and anyone who shows sign of them is burnt. People who have mutations of the mind, like Elspeth, are known as Misfits. Elspeth’s parents were burnt for opposing the Council and she fears that her brother’s fascination with the Herder Faction will lead him to reveal that she is a Misfit.

She fears being sent to Obernewtyn, an institution in the mountains run by a mysterious doctor who claims to be trying to cure Misfits. Her friend Maruman, a cat she can communicate with mentally, predicts that she will be sent there. When an official from Obernewtyn comes to the orphanage where she lives Elspeth’s hidden powers are brought to light and she is sent to the institution. There she dreams of escape.

Since escape is almost impossible Elspeth gets drawn into the mystery of Obernewtyn. Who is the mysterious doctor and what is he trying do with his experiments? What happened to Selmar to make her so afraid of the disturbing child Ariel? And who is Rushton and why does he seem to dislike Elspeth so much? Elspeth wants to find out the truth behind what happens in Obernewtyn but will the people who run it find out about her first?

Obernewtyn is a gripping read. Elspeth is a powerful, independent character and her story is one you want to know more of. The world Carmody creates is disturbingly real. She insightfully explores the possibilities of a world after nuclear disaster. She convincingly shows how fear of difference and love of power can lure people to do terrible things. The underlying current suggesting more to come in the series is brought about by mysterious premonitions and gives the reader a strong desire to find out what happens next. It is available in shops now and is a great read for anyone in the 12+ age group.

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