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Review: Obernewtyn (Obernewtyn Chroncicles Book 1)

Obernewtyn (Obernewtyn Chroncicles Book 1)
by Isobelle Carmody
256 pages
YA/ SF-Fantasy.

What's it about:
(Synopsis ripped and edited w/o permission from official goodreads.com synopsis by Cynthia Ward)

After a nuclear holocaust, the surviving humans condemn all Misfits (mutants) to either death by fire or exile to Obernewtyn, a remote mountain institution where mysterious experiments are performed on some exiles.

Elspeth Gordie is a Misfit, struggling to hide her mutant mental abilities and earn a Normalcy Certificate. But when her secret is betrayed, she is sent to Obernewtyn, from which no one has ever escaped. At Obernewtyn she [secrets basically].


Verdict: Skip it.


I want to like this book. I really do. I was interested in the world Carmody was building, especially after the first few pages.

Then I kept on reading. The book is short, primarily because there's so little of substance. Normally, I love the first book in a fantasy series because there is so much world building. Here, Carmody has it's setting, but she doesn't do anything to make that world feel alive. The story takes place mostly in the countryside and the mountains. There is little description of the scenery, of everyday life.

The story is written in first person, but I never get any real sense of who Elspeth is. First person narratives give us an intimate look into the narrator's life and mind. Done well, the narrator's voice can carry an entire novel or series. Done wrong and the narrator comes of as a robot. This particular novel falls into the "narrator sounds like a robot" category.

Then, there the biggest problem: this book is 90% telling and 10% showing. In fact, if it weren't for this problem, the previous two problems wouldn't be so prominent. The narrator tells us he or she is searching for something, is feeling anxious, is crying because of so and so, is angry because of so and so, is friends with so and so.

A fine example is near the climax, when the narrator learns the truth about another character. She attempts to cheer him up by basically telling him he will have his friends' support. And that's it.

From my summary, you expect a dialogue, lots of emotion, and feeling that the two have connected despite their differences. What you actually get is the narrator telling us she told him to cheer up because he's still got his friends. Then we get a one line response from the other character who basically says, in a around about way, "Yeah, you're right". Then the focus goes back to the climax.

In fact, there's a lot of phony dialogue where you can tell it's all to advance the plot because people just don't tell that way. One of the heroine's friends joins her in Obernewtyn, and after some bland rebuttals, falls into three+ pages where she basically tells the heroine everything that has happened since the heroine left. The heroine doesn't say a word throughout.

Or the part where the heroine hides and the villains come out and conveniently lay out all the clues and background info about their supper secret plot, each other, and the secrets of Obernewtyn.



In short, the entire novel reads like a book version of bad and generic rpg game where the writers have set up a world with potential and characters who have interesting backgrounds, only for the whole thing to fall flat because the writers can't be bothered to spend more then a page on a scene and show instead of tell.

This book is short for a reason. On the plus side, I love the cover and the title.
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