Wednesday, December 21, 2011

REVIEW: The Sending by Isobelle Carmody

The Sending is book six (or seven in the US) of the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody. The first book was released in 1987 and I have been reading them since I was twelve, hanging out for each new release. This is why I often to refer to Isobelle as 'that bitch who is taking her sweet fucking time and needs to hurry the fuck up.' I say this out of love, let me assure you.

It took me a while to decide whether or not to reread the first five books but in the end I decided not to, as it would take too much time and a friend assured me that this book did a lot of recapping. That it did. I understand that the previous book The Stone Key came out in 2008 and the one before in 1999 and therefore it might be wise to recap for those readers who have forgotten all but the crucial details. I did find this handy being in that category but it went too far. I felt the entire first third of the book was absolute faff and consisted of padding and recapping previous books, turning into a bit of a yawn fest. I would hate to think what this would be like if I had read The Stone Key immediately before.

The second let down for me was that previous books had focused equally if not more so on the plight of the Misfits in their fight against the Council and Herder Faction as well as Elspeth's quests to disable to weaponmachines. In The Stone Key especially, there is a lot of action as Elspeth discovers much about her quest, new lands are introduced and the Council is overthrown in a chaotic rebellion. In The Sending however, because Misfits now live in relative freedom this part of the story has died off and even though Elspeth's journey has always meant to be the focal point, it now seems rather dismal in comparison. 

Originally this was meant to be the final novel in the series but the editor suggested that it be divided into two books as there was a section that was left underdeveloped and the edited version was then too long. I think this is quite obvious when reading The Sending and I get the impression that the underdeveloped part was the 'faff' at the beginning.

About half way through the story changes direction rather violently and an extremely tedious few 'traveling' chapters ensue. At this point I am about to cry and it seems like Isobelle (we're totally on a first name basis) has lost the plot and is now on the bullet train to ruining-the-fantasy-series-of-my-childhood-land, stopping all stations. But never fear - it only get better from here! Action, action, action, plot twists, discoveries, action!

Thankfully Elspeth's quest suddenly becomes interesting with the introduction of the wolves, the reappearance of Dragon, some deaths, some mysterious prophecies and some really interesting new terrains. The last third of the book was really un-put-downable material and thankfully my job as a receptionist allows me to ignore all my duties and read (seriously, the amount of people that I ignored when they came in who then remarked on how good my book must be ...). The book ends with a big cliff-hanger which has never happened before in the series, again making the two-book split clear.

In the end I think a good read, although nowhere near the quality of The Stone Key. I think Isobelle has fallen into the trap of becoming complacent with character development, relying on that from previous books. Having not read the prequels for several years, I found that I knew nothing about characters such as Swallow and The Sending did nothing to rectify or expand on this; he, like some others, ended up just being a name that said some things. The choice to write in first person also has something to do with this I think.

Another slightly annoying trend that kept reappearing was the fact that whatever Elspeth assumed/guessed/thought was going to happen, never happened. In an attempt to create twists and a little unpredictability, Elspeth would continually voice her thoughts on the future and then every time she would be somehow shocked to find out that this was not the case. Every time. "Oh I can't wait to go for a walk in the park today because that totally what I planned ... OMG IT'S A DRAGON AND IT HAS BREATHED FIRE ON THE PARK AND NOW I CAN'T GO WALKING!" Very unsubtle Isobelle, tsk tsk.

In saying all of this, I feel like I now have to be defensive of the series ... it really is quite incredible and the premise of a post-apocalyptic world has been explored and presented exquisitely. For me, it is the perfect blend of fantasy and sci-fi and I would recommend it to any reader. Thankfully the final book, The Red Queen has already been written and is being released next year, because if I had to wait any longer I would hunt the bitch down and lock her in a cellar until she finished it.

In other news, I just moved house and the new one has a big built-in bookshelf which has saved me from having to buy one - photo coming soon!

1 comment:

  1. LOL, love your relationship with the author, made me chuckle :) Sounds like a fun series, I will have to check it out.

    ..and if I don't catch you later, have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year :)