Keziah Wallis's Reviews > Obernewtyn

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
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Mar 12, 10

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Read on March 13, 2010, read count: 2

It's rare that I pick up a first novel and find myself completely enthralled in the story. What makes this book all the more fascinating is the fact the author Isobelle Carmody was still in high school when she first wrote the novel. Obernewtyn does not feel like a first book, or even as though it was written by a teenager. The strength of the characters is so well defined. Elspeth, the heroine of the story is a bundle of contrasts used to living her life in fear and at times despising herself for her lack of courage.

The world of Obernewtyn itself is even more richly imagined that Elspeth. Such an air of mystery and hopelessnes surrounds the world. Set in a post-apocalyptic society where a global nuclear holocaust left only the rural and fringe members of society alive and religious fanatics known as Herders have risen to influence and power amongst the remnants of the world. The fallout of the nuclear holocaust has led to mutations which are "destroyed" at birth, and misfits who tend to have psychic-like powers who are quarantined from the rest of society, and burnt if considered dangerous to society at large.

The children of misfits and seditioners are raised at large Orphanages where they are kept from making associations with one another and moved around regularly and rarely granted Certificates of Normalcy once they turn eighteen. Carmody's heroine Elspeth is a young girl whose parents were burnt by the Council and she has hidden her powers from the rest of the world for fear the same would happen to her.

The way in which Carmody has told the fragments of the holocaust story are fascinating in their disjointedness. It is difficult to determine what exactly happened and often words are bastardized or completely indistinguishable as a result of accents that mystery surrounds the actual events. Added to this is the "official lore" and the banning of all "Oldtime" books which has left the society remarkably ignorant and backwards in technological understandings.
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