Finally this long awaited review is here!! Well I guess it’s not really that awaited by anyone except myself, but still, today I am giving you a review of the first book in my all time favorite series: The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody. This series is widely unknown and untalked about online, which could be because it’s by an Australian author and the first few books were published before 2000, but it’s amazing.
I started rereading this series in September of 2017 with the aim of reviewing it here and actually finishing the series. That’s right, I haven’t read the last book in this series despite it being my favorite, so no spoilers please. I don’t know whether I plan to review all the books in the series or just the first one, it will really depend on the interest in this post.
Obernewtyn, the first book in the series, was first published in 1987. That’s way before the current genres and tropes of the YA reading world so this book crosses into a lot of genres. I classify it as fantasy, but it’s set in a dystopian / post apocalyptic society and there are heavy gothic elements that I only picked up on in this reread because beforehand I had no idea what gothic was.
This book follow the adventures of a band of misfits (hahah if only you’d read the book so you’d actually get that joke) who can all be slotted into typical YA character tropes. There’s the…
- Main character who kind of falls into the chosen one trope but is also totally an emotionally distant ice queen
- Sarcastic and grumpy side kick / best friend who in this series happens to be a cat (fav character honestly)
- Creepy child psychopath who is simultaneously twelve years old and somehow the cause of all the drama
- Our lovable gentle giant who is the only person in this series with any chill and is also blind (which is worth mentioning because I haven’t read many books that include blind characters)
- One over excited boy who is so reckless but also so pure
- A girl with a troubled past, and by past I more mean the last month
- A dubiously trustworthy and kind of rude farm hand
To sum it up in a synopsis from goodreads:
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.
Because this book has been out for so long there are a fair few covers so I am only going to be covering my favorites.
- The original cover is actually the reason why I started reading this series in the first place due to a discussion over whether the eyes were a cat’s or an owl’s
- This is the newest cover, I don’t mind it, it continues through the rest of the series and the later ones are far more amazing
- This is the edition I have, it’s nothing special but the doors are an important part of the plot
- Those doors!! These are more like the ones I picture in my head
- I love this cover, the cat, the creepy old house, the strange font
- This is the only non english cover I could find, it’s Portuguese and doesn’t fit super well with the plot of the book
I’m kind of underwhelmed honestly… not because this wasn’t amazing (I still 100% recommend this series and it’s still my all time favorite) but because I have put this book up on so much of a pedestal since I last read it three or four years ago and since then I have read so many other books with beautiful writing and amazingly intricate plots. This book is a bit more slow going and I found the writing was a bit less descriptive than I was used to, and sometimes even a bit confusing.
I still loved how Isobelle Carmody weaved this amazing world with so many different conflicts and this amazing magic system that I know I will find out more about in the next book. I also liked how simple the conflict in this book is. Often conflicts in novels I read now are so melodramatic with a few thousand plot twists that it is hard to keep track of what is going on. This book’s in it for the long haul, it sets up the world beautifully to prepare for the monster books that are to come.
I did feel like there could have been a bit more character development for the background characters. I never really felt like there was a difference between Cameo and Selma considering that both their defining traits were that they were a bit unstable. And Matthew and Dameon were lacking in defining traits other than their physical characteristics. I also feel like Ariel was WAY older than eleven. Like he is some evil piece of work who must be at least fourteen considering how snarky and self confident he was.
I loved the relationships in this book. Elspeth had really interesting interactions with a bunch of people, firstly Louis who is kind of like a mentor/old guy who knows things, secondly Rushton – I had forgotten that there was a time when they hated each other and that was so interesting to read about, and thirdly her brother Jes who I actually loved and had forgotten completely about.
There was a few things that had less impact than I was expecting, and I don’t know whether it was just because I was expecting it or because I have lost several emotions in the past few years. I remember certain moments being really emotional and dramatic but rereading this book they doesn’t take up much space and weren’t that big of a deal.
I’ve gotten too used to the vivid detail of ya books now so the lack of description in this one made me rely more on my own imagination which was interesting. I feel like the lack of description is “fixed” in later books in the series, I forgot how short this one is. The later books in the series are upwards of 1000 pages but this is a mere 250 pages and still manages to fit so much in??? How does it do it????
- The writing is quite simple, this annoyed me for a while and I subconsciously kept shifting sentences around
- It reads almost like a stand alone and sets up the world so well
- The magic system is so cool
- Elspeth is amazing, and seeing her open up is so nice
- Maruman is epic
- I love everything about this book, I can’t even say how much
- The plot was simple and not super original, but I know that the overarching series plot is amazing and that doesn’t really pick up until the next book
- I wanted there to be more character development and less scenes in Elspeth’s head
- I think I built up the emotional impact of things to be far more than it actually was and now I’m sad that the writing didn’t include that emotional impact
(all covers link to goodreads)
- Rebel of the Sands // A team of rebels with epic powers who perform daring rescues in a world where right and wrong are very ambiguous
- Wool // These books cover similar topics from different perspectives / genres but are both amazing
- The Queen of the Tearling // A dystopian kind of world with a women trying to make the right choices among the chaos
- Pure // The apocalypse has resulted in various changes to people on both sides of society