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Isobelle Carmody

Allen and Unwin (2012 – originally published 1996)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-947-0

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

I had not read any of Isobelle Carmody’s short fiction before, although I was familiar with and had enjoyed a number of her novels. Good novelists are not always good short story writers (and vice versa), and it was with pleasure that I discovered that Carmody is as capable and assured in this medium as in the longer form. Like many collections of short stories, I found Green Monkey Dreams best read one or two stories at a time, dipped into over a fortnight or so. The writing style was easy to devour and I could have read the collection far faster; but the majority of the stories deserve time to settle, a little time for consideration, before you move onto the next.

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Isobelle Carmody

The Legend of Little Fur, book 1

Penguin Books Australia (2005)

ISBN: 9780670040933

Reviewed by Rachel Holkner (this review was first published in February 2008)

The first thing you notice on picking up the first of Isobelle Carmody’s Little Fur series is that it’s fuzzy! The small, hardcover book is bound in a soft velvety cloth which is warm to the feel. The entire book is a delight to touch and read, being small enough to hold in one hand, heavy and solid, and within, superbly laid out. In fact it won an Australian Publishers Association Book Design Award in 2006.

What’s more the contents of the book hold up to this seeming extravagance. Little Fur: The Legend Begins introduces us to the half troll, half elf creature who lives in a magically protected forest close to a city. Little Fur is a healer and uses her skills to cure animals which come to her injured or in sickness. But she has never left her forest, until the day she must seek help across the city to stop humans from burning down trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Isobelle Carmody

The Obernewtyn Chronicles, book 1

Penguin (1987)

ISBN: 9780375857676

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in December 2006)

I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I blame my Year 10 English teacher, who must have made us spend a semester on the stuff: a couple of great books, and film classics Soylent Green and Omega Man (both with Charlton Heston … I wonder what it is about the man?). I have plenty of friends who rave about Carmody, but they never got around to telling me that Obernewtyn is post-apocalyptic. Having got to my mid-20s without reading this doyenne of Aussie fantasy, I decided it was time to take her for a spin. I’m glad I did.

In this post-apocalyptic world, the Land is being ruled by an authoritarian Council and the religious Herder Faction. They are determined to keep the Land pure, free from mutants – called Misfits – caused by the Great White some time ago (clearly a nuclear holocaust; shades of The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, here). They burn or banish all mutants – but of course, not all mutations are visible to the eye; the powers that be are beginning to try and root out these mental mutations too. At the same time, they are being threatened by rebels and Seditioners, whom they are also rooting out and often burning. Elspeth is the daughter of Seditioners, and has been living in a home for orphans since they were burned. She also has the ability to talk to beasts and people – in her head. She lives in constant fear of being discovered, and becomes even more scared when she is denounced for the express purpose of then sending her to Obernewtyn – a house in the mountains with an ominous reputation. While there, she eventually discovers the secret of the masters of the house, and ends up getting involved with an attempt to overthrow them. Read the rest of this entry »

Isobelle Carmody

Obernewtyn Chronicles, book 6

Penguin (Nov 2011)

ISBN: 9780670853595 

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This review contains spoilers for the previous five books.

It’s important to say at the outset that this is not the book I thought it was.

This is not the final book of the Obernewtyn Chronicles.

I knew that Carmody had wanted to split the last book in half, to properly tell Elspeth’s story; I thought that meant books 5 and 6. No. It meant books 6 and 7 – number 7 being The Red Queen, due out next year. I realised that this book could not be the final one with around 100 pages (of 750) to go.

Let’s recap where we left Elspeth and the Misfits in 2008, with the last book (The Stone Key). Dragon, heir to the Red Queen, is missing, as is Miryum the coercer-knight with the body of her would-be suitor Straaka.The farseeker Matthew is still a slave in the Red Lands. The rebels have destroyed the Council and set up a democracy in its place, with many of them being elected in their cities; the Misfits are slowly, slowly being accepted by society. The Herder Faction has been routed from Herder Isle, thanks to Elspeth. Elspeth has broken Ariel’s hold over Rushton. Sador is basically friends with the Land, and they’ve agreed to send ships to the Red Land to help stop Salamander and the slave trade. Maruman is as cranky as ever and Elspeth is only a little closer to having all the necessary keys for stopping a second holocaust from happening. Read the rest of this entry »

Edited by Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab

Allen and Unwin (2011)

ISBN: 9781742374406

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

It’s lovely to see a project like this coming out of Australian publishing: the first of a two-volume series of anthologies of retold fairytales by some of our most beloved and important YA authors. Retelling fairytales is nothing new of course, but is a theme that benefits from revisitation, as each generation (and indeed, each writer) provides something new. I’m also very much enjoying what seems to be a current trend towards shorter anthologies – in this case only six stories per book which allows for longer stories, but demands a high level of quality for each. I really appreciated the substantial author’s notes on each story, which showed the process they took and introduces the fairytale they started with, for readers who might be unfamiliar with them.

The first story, “Catastrophic Disruption of the Head” by Margo Lanagan, is the most powerful of the set, and indeed one of the most gutting and thought provoking of Lanagan’s recent work, which is saying something. Lanagan is no stranger to fairytale retellings, and in this instance has taken The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Anderson and fleshed it out into a story which puts us inside the mind of a soldier so damaged by his wartime experience that he finds himself lashing out in despicable ways. Lanagan is renowned for quite raw, sometimes painful-to-read stories, and this one is definitely among that group, containing themes which might be confronting or triggering for some readers – in particular, by putting us inside the mind of a rapist. But her work as ever is as deft as it is brutal, and I found myself wanting to reread it to figure out all the clever things that she was doing.

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