Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
my synopsis (contains information largely from the prologue and the official blurb, aka, no real spoilers)
Set in a post-apocalyptic world (after humanity was nearly destroyed, presumably by nuclear bombs), Obernewtyn follows the story of an orphan girl: Elspeth. Elspeth's parents were burned for sedition against the Council. Her brother is trying to join the Herder faction (a fanatical religious order who condemn anyone who displays strange abilities caused by the Great White). And Elspeth herself is a Misfit--a cursed human mutant. If discovered, she faces death.
The world has undergone many changes. After "The Great White" (the nuclear apocalypse, also known as the holocaust), only those who lived in remote regions still survived. To ensure their continued survival, they slaughtered any who showed signs of sickness from the nuclear fallout. They imposed rigid rules and burned those who went against the Council.
Now, the Council still fears anything related to the Great White--including the possibility of another such disaster. They do not hesitate to remove anyone who speaks out against it, anyone who shows signs of being affected by the Great White (Misfits), and anything that might contain knowledge from the Beforetime. Beforetime books are forbidden. Technology is lost. The world is rudimentary, brutal, and unforgiving with little chance of change...
the premise of Obernewtyn is more sci-fi-ish than i had originally expected. however, the story felt more like fantasy than sci-fi, so it didn't really bother me (i am generally NOT a sci-fi fan).
Elspeth appears to start out as an unsympathetic character who shrinks away from everyone around her. however, the reader soon discovers that her apparent indifference is really because friends are a luxury she cannot afford. as an orphan, her life is hard, and attachments are dangerous. saying the wrong thing can spell their doom, and associating with the wrong people can likewise mean death.
Elspeth's plight against the totalitarian "government" is very compelling. she is talented, smart, brave--everything a heroine needs. the world is utterly serious, creating an unforgettable setting. escape, mystery, sacrifice--i never knew what would come next. Carmody has a talent for never letting the story begin to slacken. she simply twists it around and keeps the reader guessing.
overall rating: (4.5)