Tag Archives: talking animals

Obernewtyn Part Deux

So the beginning of The Farseekers was a little bit hard for me to get into—which is inexcusable because I started it literally the moment I finished the first one.  With that kind of momentum, I hold Carmody personally responsible for slowing me down.the-farseekers

This second book jumps in months (weeks? years?) after the first ends.  Elspeth is a Guildmistress (a goofy way of saying ‘leader’) of the ‘farseeking’ group.  Basically this means she trains all the new farseeking Misfits.  Now Obernewtyn is functioning as kind of a Xavier Institute for Higher Learning for talented Misfits.  There are several ‘guilds’ for each talent: beastspeaking, farseeking, healing, coercing (forcing people to do what you want), empathy (basically a completely useless talent it seems like to me, all they can do is sense how people are feeling, MAYBE influence that if they’re really powerful),  etc etc.

Rushton has just rushed (sorry, unavoidable) back to Obernewtyn to warn them that the Council is taking a little too much interest in their goings-on.  The guilds decide to send out an expedition to Sutrium (the capital) to investigate and maybe set up a safe house.  This expedition coincides with another Elspeth and the teckno-guildmaster (basically a scientist) have planned.  Pavo wants to collect a cache of Beforetime books he has discovered in a faraway city, and Elspeth wants to rescue a powerful Misfit that she has sensed (also in a faraway city).  Oh, and before they leave they also rescue Jik, a Herder’s assistant that is also a Misfit.

Cool.

So they’re on the way.  Elspeth is riding a horse named Gahltha.  There’s some weird stuff going on with the horses, because now that they can chat with the humans, they’ve used this gift basically to bitch and whine about having to work for them.  Gahltha, a previously abused horse, is the ringleader of this ‘rebellion.’  He and Elspeth make a deal that he and the other horses will participate in this quest, and if they can work together the horses will be seen as equals.  For some reason, none of the other animals are so pushy (the dog goes ahead of them and warns them of poisoned trees and ground, and then gets killed in a firestorm, and he says nary a word in protest).

Anyway, so these people and the grumpy horses get captured by the Druid’s men (a rebel group).  Elspeth discovers some Misfits among them, including an old friend that she met for about 2 seconds in the first book—Daffyd.  Daffyd shows up a bunch in the future, so write that down.  Elspeth and Kella (the other female, a healer) are almost forced to marry some of the rebels, but then they all escape on a raft that Domick (a coercer) somehow makes in about 3 hours (but it is big enough to hold all of them, plus the horses, and survives a ride through rapids during a storm, under a mountain, through an ancient Beforetime city of skyscrapers).

When they are shipwrecked (raft-wrecked?) an older couple takes care of them.  In return they ask that some of the group visit Aborium to check on their son, Brydda, who is a rebel leader.  The others go to Sutrium to set up a safehouse.  Elspeth meets and befriends Brydda (after almost being kidnapped), and he goes with them back to his parents house, where Domick meets them to warn them that Ariel (remember him?  Creepy sicko child from the first book?) works for the Council and Herders now and is behind the sudden interest in Obernewtyn.  They escape, and go to a lost city to get those books I mentioned about seventeen paragraphs ago.  Luckily for them the powerful mind Elspeth was looking for happens to be in the exact same place.  It is a young girl they nickname Dragon, because of her powerful ability to coerce people—i.e. make them hallucinate terrible things.  But she’s a total sweetheart though.  Well, we think.  She can’t really speak any language and kind of acts like an animal.

On the way home, there’s a firestorm, and everyone but Dragon and Elspeth are killed (I’m not sure who’s with who at this point—but I do know Jik dies, and maybe the dog too).  Elspeth convinces Dragon and Daffyd (I tell you, he pops up at the most opportune times) to go warn Obernewtyn about Ariel without her.  She is badly injured, but some magical birds take her to a magical place and magically heal her.  As well as tell her the same story Maruman (remember the cat friend?) always yammers on about…she has to save the world from the second holocaust, she is the chosen one, yadda yadda.  Then they send her back to a mountain in the middle of nowhere which is where Gahltha is waiting for her.  The magic birds have been chatting with him as well, and now he’s all nice and penitent, and hell-bent on protecting Elspeth from everything.

The end is pretty anticlimactic, with the return to Obernewtyn, in ruins, surrounded by soldierguards.  But wait!  It’s just an illllusssion (say in Gob Bluth’s voice) masterminded by Dragon.  They get rid of the soldierguards pretty easily, Elspeth and Rushton make awkward, sexually charged glances at one another, the end.

This book has some really great parts, and except for a few chapters that drag (like her magical bird encounter), it kept me pretty invested.  There are a lot of characters, and everyone has weird names so it is difficult for me and my tiny brain to keep track of them all.  It doesn’t help that several minor characters have very similar names.  I like all the parts with horses (predictably), but I’m not a fan of Maruman and his weird drug-induced  hallucinations.  Also, I predict that I’m going to get tired of Elspeth’s repetitive ‘Who me?  The Seeker, hero of the animals, rescuer of the world? I don’t believe it!  All of these animals must be on drugs!’  act that I can tell is going to be a recurring thing until she finally makes peace with her ‘destiny.’  Get with the program Elspeth.  Can’t you hear the omniprescent narrator voice in your head?  Who’s the main character here?  Obvi you’re going to need to save the world so please pull yourself together.  Also, put Rushton out of his misery and make out with him a little, at least.

 

 

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Obernewtyn Begins

obernewtyn

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. Continue reading


Atlanta: That Magical Place

I usually prefer to write scathing reviews.  If given the choice, I probably would rather review a book I hated than a book I loved.  There’s just so much more to say.

But in this case, I really wanted to love this book.  Or at least like it.  It had so many promising features: it’s set in Atlanta, the word Peregrine is in the title which can only mean good things, orphans, magical creatures, secret worlds, little drawings, etc. etc.

Even so.

I rarely come across a kid’s book set in Atlanta, so that was pretty exciting for me.  Later, I was relieved to read that the author is from England, not Atlanta.  This explains why all of the ‘Atlanta’ references read as if they were lifted from a travel guide.  This is completely unnecessary—none of the plot hinges on the setting being in Atlanta—so there’s no need to be so heavy-handed with the Peachtree references, or try to work the Braves into completely unrelated sentences.  It felt like they were inserted later, or corporately sponsored.

In Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact, Darwen Arkwright, our protagonist, is an orphaned Briton, recently displaced from his working-class neighborhood to his aunt’s chic apartment.  While wandering around the mall (probably Lenox I’m presuming), he sees a large bird.  This bird, unlike the typical sparrows you see trapped inside shopping plazas, is a large, leathery bat-type thing with the face of a man.  Darwen follows the bird-thingie into a store in an empty corner of the mall (is there even such a thing?).  The store, Mr. Octavius Peregrine’s Reflectory Emporium Mirrors Priceless and Perilous, sells, unsurprisingly, mirrors.

And the weird bird/bat/man thing flies into one and disappears.  First Mr. Peregrine denies it, before admitting that it’s a flittercrake.  He doesn’t offer much more information than that, but he does give Darwen a parting gift, a small mirror.

Now, I personally wouldn’t accept a mirror from a man that seems kind of crazy from a shop where I saw a creepy bird thingie disappear into a mirror, but that’s why I rarely appear in supernatural children’s novels.

Darwen hangs the mirror in his room, and is shocked to find that after dark it becomes a window into another world.  So, of course he climbs through it.  Luckily he must be the size of about  a five year-old to fit through this tiny mirror, but whatever.

This leads him into a pretty boring world that consists of a circular path and a fountain.  Darwen thinks it’s the greatest though—has a conversation with a fairy thing named Moth, and almost gets killed by a dark shadow chasing him.  Of course, he loves it and can’t wait to go back. Continue reading


Wildwood=Wildgood

I like to keep with a theme, whether it be kids in space, dystopian youth gangs fighting the man, or scary birds.  So naturally, after reading The Aviary, I wanted to read another book about birds that may be plotting to kill you.

Wildwood starts at a brisk pace, with the kidnapping of Prue’s baby brother Mac.  This kidnapping, like most, happens in a split-second when Prue’s attention is diverted at the park.  However, unlike the usual America’s Most Wanted kidnapping stories, Prue’s baby bro is snatched up by a flock of crows.  A veritable, murder of crows if you will.

This large swarm of birds carry the child off into the distance, into the Impassible Wilderness, the large, imposing forest that no one in Portland (yes, Oregon) ever ventures into (or if they do, never returns from, natch).  Prue, obviously not a shrinking violet, strikes off on her own to rescue her brother.  She is joined at the last minute by her hapless, bespectacled (they always are bespectacled aren’t they?) neighbor, Curtis.

Not long after they enter the woods (and are immediately lost), Prue and Curtis almost stumble upon a crowd of arguing coyotes.  Coyotes wearing tattered uniforms and carrying rusty muskets.  Unfortunately, they are sniffed out quickly, and only Prue escapes.  Curtis, unfortunately, is marched back to the warren to meet the Dowager Governess.

While Curtis is getting drunk on homemade spirits, while getting acquainted with the Dowager, Prue is almost flattened by a mail truck.  The kind mailman escorts her to the South Wood, marvelling that an Outsider has made it into the woods, and gently letting her know that her friend Curtis and baby brother Mac have most likely been killed and dismembered by now. Continue reading