When I was living in Australia I really wanted to read some authentic-type Aussie YA and report back. Which I did–but it just took me like six months to get around to posting it. SORRY.
The Obernewtyn Chronicles have pretty much all you need in post-apocolyptic fantasy fiction—talking animals, psychic mind powers, evil overlords, etc. etc.
I’m going to give you a pretty comprehensive run-down, because the books just get more and more complicated, and you’re going to need this later. For the test.
Major spoilers ahead:
So, after the Great White, a radiation-laced explosion that decimated and poisoned all of the cities and most of the land, people moved out to the most rural areas seeking untainted water and food. The farmers that lived there set up a Council to control the newcomers and impose rules and regulations on their behavior. Any person or animal suffering from radiation mutations is ritualistically burned by the Herder Faction—the ‘priests’ of the community. Gradually, it became noticeable that some mutations weren’t physical but mental, and everyone lives in fear that they will be labeled a Misfit.
Elspeth (hint—main character) and her brother Jes are orphans—their parents burned as Seditioners by the Herders. While Jes has garnered favor with the Herders and community leaders, Elspeth lives in fear of being exposed as a Misfit. Besides being able to read and change people’s minds, Elspeth can talk to animals, most notably the wild cat that follows her, Maruman. Maruman is prone to wandering around in the poisoned mountains, so Elspeth doesn’t take him to seriously when he raves about her destiny.
But the cat’s premonitions are harder to ignore when they come true—and a woman comes from the Highlands to take Elspeth to Obernewtyn, a manor in the mountains devoted to experimental treatments to ‘cure’ Misfits.
From the start, Obernewtyn seems pretty grim. Besides the trained attack wolves, Madame Vega and her hypnotic eyes, and her sadistic lackey, Ariel—some of the other girls in the home seem terrified and mentally deranged, and keep giving Elspeth cryptic warnings.
When she is recruited to work in the barns, Elspeth makes friends with Matthew and Damien—two other Misfits with mental gifts. Matthew can read minds, while Damien can sense and manipulate emotions. Elspeth also is introduced to Rushton, the farm overseer, who seems to be always watching her.
Two of the girls, Cameo and Selmar, become increasingly erratic, with screaming nightmares. Snooping around the manor house, Elspeth discovers two other occupants, the Master of the House, and his ‘assistant’ Alexi. Alexi, Madame Vega, and Ariel are torturing the girls with a machine they found and modified from the ‘Beforetime;’ trying to use their mental gifts to discover where the war machines that caused the Great White are located.
They capture Elspeth, but she is able to use her unusually strong powers to kill them, except for Ariel, who escapes into the snow and is probably eaten by wolves. Rushton is revealed (conveniently) as the true master of Obernewtyn, and the group begins to turn the manor into a secret safe house for Misfits.
Sorry for giving away the plot, but seriously, this book is intense and has about 200 characters. Also, half the names look the same to me, and I constantly had to look up who was who. I also appreciated that the book can stand on it’s own–obviously there are many more in the series–but I wasn’t left with a WTF feeling at the end which is always nice. Carmody doesn’t try too hard to make Elspeth a likeable character, which is a relief (especially after the more fluffy YA I’ve been reading lately, where all the heroines have been slightly annoying). I personally couldn’t put this book down.