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Book Review: Obernewtyn By Isobelle Garmody

Book Review: Obernewtyn By Isobelle GarmodyTitle: Obernewtyn
Author: Isobelle Carmody
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian
Publisher: Random House Books
Publication Date: 9th December 2008
Goodreads Summary: 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.

{ Review }

Obernewtyn follows the story of Elspeth Gordie who lives in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the ‘Great White’. Elspeth, or Elf, was born with strange mental abilities that cannot be explained and will most likely get her killed if she is exposed. Hiding amongst other Misfits, Elspeth knows it isn’t long before she’s found, especially as there have been subtle warnings that she is safe from her friends and her own visions. Following a visit to her village by a Madame Vega, she is taken away to Obernewtyn, a distant compound that nobody knows much about, but what they do know is that once you’re taken there, you never return. Elspeth must constantly be on her guard at Obernewtyn because there’s something strange going on and she’s certain that whatever it is, it involves her and her coveted abilities.

The plot had many highs and lows but I don’t feel that it really had much of a driving force behind it. If you asked me to describe the plot of Obernewtyn to you, I’m not really sure where I’d begin or end as I don’t think there’s a conclusive story line and it was more like a bunch of events that happened. Some parts of the plot moved really fast and others moved really damn slowly with most of the more ‘exciting’ moments extremely rushed. I found this book very hard to get into at the beginning but once the plot got going it was easier to read. However, the ending was incredibly rushed and there were several important details that I feel were skated over leaving a few holes in my understanding of the story which was disappointing. This story is actually rather complex and in order to fully understand the new world that the author has created and what the purpose of each and every character is, you’d probably have to read this incredibly slowly and carefully or read it more than once which is a hindrance.

The world that the author has created is really intricate with different words for familiar concepts and some altogether new words. It takes a little while to get used to her style of writing and the new universe that she has created, but once you’ve got a grasp of it, you become really absorbed into the new world post Great White. The setting and the descriptions are excellent and Isobelle Carmody presents an altogether new and unique world that I haven’t read about before. Although it isn’t explicit, the ‘Great White’ appears to have been caused by a nuclear accident so this book subtly ties into world issues that are prevalent today, but hidden in the form of fiction.

Despite the brilliant setting, I have to admit that I really didn’t take to any of the characters and this made it difficult to get into the actual story. I didn’t feel any sort of connection to the protagonist, Elspeth, nor did I have any particular feeling about any of the other characters. A lot of the characters develop drastically throughout the story and some have completely different personalities by the end which I found confusing rather than interesting. My first impressions of characters were all wrong but I felt like this was more of a genuine fault in the writing rather than a stylistic device employed by the author.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Obernewtyn before I picked it up and in all honesty I’m still not quite sure what to make of it now. Whilst it is an interesting story, it has a few too many highs and lows and wasn’t consistent in holding my attention at all. Sometimes I was thoroughly bored by this book, but at others I was really interested. The problem with the ‘interesting’ parts was that they either weren’t fully developed or they didn’t last long enough to peak my interest for a long period of time.  All in all, I feel that the author had a brilliant idea that didn’t quite come to fruition. There are sequels to Obernewtyn but in all honesty I’m not sure whether this book interested me enough for me to read the subsequent novels.

Many thanks to Sam at Readgig for providing me with a  review copy.


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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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1 Comment

  1. 27th April 2014 / 2:18 AM

    Hmm, interesting premise but I feel like your review kind of highlighted (or lowlighted) some really big issues I would have too. I&#39m not into the plots that kind of swirl around aimlessly… I&#39ve read lots of supposed "action" books like that and I usually prefer a more set story, if that makes sense. The ending being rushed is also a little worrisome.

    Great review! I get it when some books are lacking execution. Not much fun for the reader.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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