Review: Obernewtyn

Review: ObernewtynObernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
Series: The Obernewtyn Chronicles #1
Published by Random House BFYR on December 9, 2008
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy
Pages: 245
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-half-stars

In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. And for Elspeth Gordie, it is also dangerous. That's because Elspeth has a secret: she is a Misfit, born with mysterious mental abilities that she must keep hidden under threat of death. And her worries only multiply when she is exiled to the mountain compound known as Obernewtyn, where—for all her talents—Elspeth may finally and truly be out of her depth. Then she learns she’s not the only one concealing secrets at Obernewtyn.

First Sentence: “In the days following the holocaust, which came to be known as the Great White, there was death and madness.”

Review:
First published in 1987, Obernewtyn really just reads like a book from that era. I don’t really know how to explain that, except that I’ve read dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction from then and from now, and it very much reads like the former. Partly, this stems from the formatting, broken into a number of short books, because in the 80s and 90s publishers did not have the same faith in teenage attention spans that they do now.

Pulled in by the pretty cover with the intense looking girl, pretty mountains and a cat, I had no conception of what I was getting myself into. Apparently, as the infodumping all over the beginning of the novel told me, humanity made machines that destroyed the world, irradiating and polluting it. Many people died immediately, but some hardy farmers survived. These farmers established a new order, one opposed to technology and worshipful of Lud (their God). They also dictated a policy to kill any seditious people and those affected by radiation, Misfits.

Oddly, though, they don’t kill ALL of the misfits. Some are kept alive as workers or sent to the mysterious estate of Obernewtyn, much feared, because, like with a roach motel, those who go there check in but don’t check out. Elspeth, the heroine, has, of course, psychic powers, able to speak with animals in her mind and sometimes having prophetic dreams. She, as expected, gets discovered, though for the more minor misfit tendency of the dreams, and shipped off to Obernwtyn.

There, mysterious happenings are afoot. People disappear. There’s a creepy doctor running tests. A weird machine that attempts to take over Elspeth’s mind. The people running Obernewtyn appear to be evil. On the other hand, for once in her life, Elspeth has real friends who know her for who and what she is and accept her. She has more freedom than ever before, but her life is in great danger.

Obernewtyn failed to really shine, though the story does exhibit promise. For one thing, you never really learn anything about the characters particularly. While I liked Elspeth, Matthew and Dameon well enough, all I really know is that they’re nice people with powers. The world building, too, is half-hearted. I enjoyed the idea of this book, but never got sucked into Carmody’s world.

Personally, I would label the book more post-apocalyptic than dystopian, though many people on Goodreads would disagree with me. There are elements of both, however. On the plus side, there’s no romance in here, so I suspect there will be eventually. For now, it’s a nice respite from the modern, romance-focused dystopian and post-apocalyptic tales.

Despite how slow much of the book was for me, I am curious enough to keep going with this series, because, at the very least, the books are short. I suspect these might be more enjoyable for middle grade readers.

10 responses to “Review: Obernewtyn”

  1. This was one of the books I wasn’t really sure to read or not. Based on your review, Christina, I think I’d rather not 😉

  2. Laura Howard says:

    I really liked this series. I have only read three so far, but someday I plan to read them all. It’s definitely not perfect, but I think she was only a teenager when it came out. That’s pretty impressive.

  3. Giselle says:

    So I just spent 5 mins trying to pronounce Obernewtyn LOL. And while I don’t like historicals, I think I’d really enjoy a post apocalyptic set in the past! PLus it all sounds creepy and effed up! I’m also impressed and happy about the lack of romance. Go old fart books!!

    • Christina says:

      I don’t think this is a historical; it’s just from 1987. I don’t think there was a distinct date as to WHEN it’s set. But, yeah, it’s pretty creepy and not much on romance!

  4. Renae M. says:

    Hmmm. The idea and concept behind this book definitely sound promising, but underdeveloped characterization tends to ruin just about any book for me. It would be interesting though, like you pointed out, to compare the older post-apocalyptic/dystopian book with what’s currently getting published.

  5. Heidi says:

    Every time I see someone talk about this book I have such a hard time gauging whether or not I will enjoy it (which is really enough reason to pick it up and see). I hate info dumping, but am also a big MG fan and tend to go into MG books with a different mindset. I also don’t think I’ve read anything in this genre from that general time period (accept maybe The Giver), so I’m kind of curious to see what you mean by that. *shrug*

    • Christina says:

      I can see why you would have trouble. I was convinced (by the pretty cover) that I would love the book, but it’s got that slower, meandering pace that older books tend to have. There’s less of a consistent plot thread. I’m not sure what authors back then thought of teens.

      Rather than The Giver, I was thinking more of John Christopher, for example.

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