Obernewtyn, by Isobelle Carmody

Isobelle Carmody wrote Obernewtyn, the first novel in her Obernewtyn Chronicles, at the ripe old age of fourteen. Admittedly, the book wasn't actually published until she was thirty, so we're assuming she had a chance to edit out anything super-embarrassing, but either way her book is bursting with classic fantasy/sci-fi appeal.

Obernewtyn is set in a post-apocalyptic world struggling to recover from a massive nuclear war. The survivors are governed by two zealous, powerful factions, the Council and the Herders, and those who do not conform to their dictates are put to death. Teenager Elspeth Gordie has already suffered at the hands of the Council and Herders (her parents were executed for sedition), and she's struggling to hide a secret that would cause her even more pain: she is a Misfit, born with mysterious mental abilities that allow her to communicate with animals and manipulate people's emotions. When her powers are exposed, Elspeth is sent to the prison farm known as Obernewtyn—a place from which no Misfit has ever returned.

I have yet to read the rest of this series (although books two through six are sitting in my office, waiting to be packed up for an upcoming trip to the beach), but Obernewtyn sets up a rich world for its heroine to explore. In addition to its bleakly dramatic setting, the book features all kinds of classic sci-fi/fantasy themes: secret experiments, newfound powers, even—shades of Tolkien?—a quest to destroy a terrible weapon.

Carmody has been publishing books in this series since 1987, with the final two installments (originally one very long book, split into two for the US, UK and Canadian markets) due out this spring. I'll report back after my beach trip, but my hopes are high—sure, it's possible that that the later books in this series will be terrible, but the first one at least is the stuff of which classic sci-fi/fantasy is made.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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