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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 »

Susan Parisi

Penguin (2008)

ISBN: 9780143007647

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in June 2009)

Blood of Dreams was a disappointing novel. A trite and meandering plot, and characters that are never fully realised combine to create a very unsatisfying reading experience.

In eighteenth century Venice Laudomia chafes under the guardianship of her brothers. Neither they nor her sisters-in-law want to hear anything about her gift of foresight. They want her to be an extremely proper young lady who never says, thinks or hears anything they deem scandalous; and they want her to marry someone conservative who will ensure the rest of her life will be like that. They particularly don’t want Laudomia to mention the visions she’s been having of a series of ugly murders terrifying Venice. Then Laudomia meets Estavio and the entire family is immediately smitten. But when Estavio champions Laudomia’s gift to her brothers, they immediately reject him as a friend and potential suitor. Laudomia, however, is not willing to let him go so easily.

The supposed twist at the end of the novel is in fact obvious very early on, at least if you’re paying attention. I’m not sure if this is deliberate – an attempt to make the reader more knowledgeable than Laudomia – or simply a rather clumsy attempt to seed something that the reader will remember retrospectively as a justification for the ending. Either way, it didn’t work for me. The twist itself was so trite that it only made me roll my eyes to have my suspicions confirmed. 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 »

Grace Dugan

Penguin Books (2006)

ISBN-13: 978 0 14 3004479

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts (this review was first published in August 2006)

Zuven is a foundling with a great and terrible destiny before her. Yelela is a young noblewoman who has defied her parents to train as a soldier. Haga is a rebel with a cause.

Against a lush tropical setting, these three protagonists will come together as an evil king is deposed, and a young peasant-raised woman put in his place. The winds are a-changing, and not necessarily for the better… Read the rest of this entry »

Sally Rogers-Davidson

Penguin (1999)

ISBN: 140275061

Reviewed by Tsana Dolichva (syndicated with permission, originally published as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge)

Spare Parts is about Kelty, a 19 year old “C-grader” (in a caste system which goes down to D), whose prospects were reduced when she narrowly missed out on a place at university (because C-graders can only get in with scholarships). The book is set about a hundred years in the future in the sprawling suburbia of Melbourne, albeit a Melbourne more filled with high-rises and with even dodgier trains than at present.

When Kelty’s best friend is grievously injured in an industrial accident, Kelty decides to sell her body and join the space corps to save her friend. This is a world where the rich discard their old, decrepit (or sometimes merely slightly wrinkled) bodies and have their brains transplanted into the young bodies of people of the lower classes, for a nice fee. The people who’ve sold their bodies then get to have their brains transplanted into cyborg bodies. The catch? Cyborgs (or cybermorphs as is the politically correct term) aren’t allowed to live permanently on Earth.

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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 »

Heather Brewer

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Penguin (2008)

ISBN: 978-0-14-320515-9

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Now in high school, Vladimir Tod is still struggling with bullies, girl trouble, and that pesky learning to be a good vampire thing. With the (often absent) help of his uncle Otis, Vlad is starting to come into his power, aided by “drudge” and best friend Henry. Then Henry’s cousin comes to stay, and suddenly Vlad finds himself with a new friend, who becomes a rival for the affections of Meredith, and perhaps more of a threat that Vlad could even imagine. With a trip to Siberia to learn more about his vampire heritage, a vampire slayer out for blood, and the evil D’Ablo and his flunky Jasik after him, ninth grade isn’t boring!

A reasonable second book to the series, Ninth Grade Slays perhaps takes a bit long to tell the story, especially considering the age this story will appeal to. The character of Vlad is by turns engaging and unlikeable – his behaviour towards his friends is conflicted and not always pleasant, and I’ve discovered that I’m not actually a fan of disagreeable protagonists, which has an impact on my reading enjoyment. It’s also interesting that the author takes us to various locations throughout the story – Siberia is an unusual choice.

Ninth Grade Slays has its place among the plethora of vampire fare loading the shelves, particularly for the male readers, but I’m not as excited about where the series is going as I was at the end of the first book.

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Heather Brewer

Penguin (2007)

ISBN: 978-0-14-320514-2

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod books are making their first appearance in Australia this year, having been previously published in the US by various Penguin imprints. I’m surprised they’ve taken this long to reach our shores, given the explosion of paranormal young adult fiction in the past few years, but they seem to be a good addition to the bookshelves.

Vladimir Tod is a 13-year-old vampire, but only two people in the whole world know this. His vampire father and human mother died three years earlier, and he’s been living with his “Aunt” Nelly (his mother’s best friend), a nurse who keeps him supplied with blood bags. With his best friend Henry by his side, Vlad navigates bullies at school, a crush on a nice girl, and growing up, none of which are easy. But then his favourite teacher disappears, and the strange substitute who takes his place starts to make Vlad feel very uneasy.

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Michael Joesph

Penguin (2010)

ISBN: 978 0 7181 5559 9

Reviewed by Mitenae, May 2010

Sister Evangeline has been at the Saint Rose Convent since she was twelve, and a nun since she was eighteen. Now, aged 23, while sorting through the mail she discovers a letter from Verlaine requesting access to the Convent’s archives.

But Verlaine, an art historian, has been employed by Percival Grigori, a sick Nephilim to uncover the cure to the disease wasting his wings away. Rashly, Verlaine visits the convent, sparking events that will change Sister Evangeline’s life and setting her upon a course to discover her own family history.

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