January 5th, 2007

20111112, Marilee

Obernewtyn & The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody

Before I describe the books, I must say that it turns out this SFBC omnibus (no longer on their list) is the first two of five or six books (one of her fan sites says that the last book, due to be published this year, may end up two). If you decide you want to read these, buy now -- there's a copy of the fourth book, The Keeping Place on abebooks.com going for $125. I found one with a much more reasonable cost, even including the $15 shipping from Oz, on abebooks.

I realized about 3/4 of the way through the book when a character mentioned how young the protagonist is, that it's really YA. But I hadn't noticed until then. It's great SF, just young protagonists. Her website says she started the first book when she was 14.

In this tiny area called the Land (the southern end of an island), there were areas spared from the GreatWhite (a nuclear world war). There's still dangerous "poisoned" places inland, but the coastal areas are clean. Over the years since the GreatWhite, two oppressive groups developed: The Council, wielding secular authority, and the Herders, wielding spiritual authority. They both believe in burning Seditioners (people who don't follow their rule) and Misfits (some are what we would consider retarded or with Down Syndrome, but most have elements of psi powers).

Our story starts with Elspeth, a 12-year-old whose parents were burned for Sedition, in an orphan home. She's been able to keep her Misfit status from everybody for a long time. When she is found out, she goes to court and someone from a work farm in a mountainous region buys her from the Council. After a day's journey (two changes of horses for the carriage), she arrives at a large compound where she is locked in a room. As she learns more about where she is and who she is, dangerous and thrilling events happen. This continues through both books, and each book sufficiently finishes the immediate problem, but there is a longterm quest forecast for Elspeth and I reckon that continues in the next books.

Highly recommended. Apparently most of her work, largely YA with lots of awards, was only published in Australia. I thnk I may spend some time finding other series and books.