Isobelle Carmody is one of Australia's most highly acclaimed authors of fantasy. At fourteen, she began Obernewtyn, the first book in her much-loved Obernewtyn Chronicles, and has since written many works in this genre. Her novel The Gathering was joint winner of the 1993 Children's Literature Peace Prize and the 1994 CBCA Book of the Year Award, and Greylands was joint winner of the 1997 Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction (Young Adult category), and was named a White Raven at the 1998 Bologna Children's Book Fair. Isobelle's work for younger readers includes her two series, The Legend of Little Fur, and The Kingdom of the Lost, the first book of which, The Red Wind, won the CBCA Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers in 2011. She has also written several picture books as well as collections of short stories for children, young adults and adults. After living in Europe for more than a decade, these days Isobelle divides her time in Australia between her home on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, and Brisbane, where she is working on a PhD at the University of Queensland. She lives with her partner and daughter, and a shadow-black cat called Mitya.
Carmody, an Australian author previously unpublished here, is certain to ensnare readers with this superbly crafted novel. Her plot has all the ingredients of a supernatural horror tale: a new kid arrives in a strange, Stepford-like village and joins up with a group of fellow students who undertake a cosmic battle against a mysterious evil force. But Carmody transcends the genre by relating the story through an unusually lifelike narrator, and she gives it urgency by suggesting that its supernatural elements can be interpreted as symbols for the tensions and painful mysteries of ordinary life, the dark causalities between the sins of the past and present crises. The foreboding atmosphere achieves a nearly visceral intensity as Nathaniel, the narrator, describes ever more specific phenomena--a pervasive stench from the town slaughterhouse; the erratic behavior of his well-trained dog, who meets a grotesque fate; the uncanny similarities between the school principal and the charismatic dancing teacher of a previous generation. The suspense never slackens, and the resolutions of the many conflicts are powerfully wrought. Utterly riveting. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)
Gr 7-10-Vile odors, feral dogs, fascistic school monitors, and a demonic principal combine to convince Nathaniel, 15, that something is terribly wrong in his new town. As part of a class assignment, he probes into local history and discovers the shocking truth about the death of a school janitor years ago. The evil from that chilling incident still grips Cheshunt and is now rapidly gaining power. Nathaniel finds himself drawn to a group of misfits at school and they are soon involved in a struggle against the terrible forces that seek total control of the community. Suspense builds slowly and creates an atmosphere of grim foreboding. However, Nathaniel is the only one of the young people whose personality is distinct, and the fantasy elements in the plot are not fully developed. The principal is, of course, pure evil. The other adults are mostly unaware of the epic battle shaping up around them. Only when evil is about to triumph do the young people at last understand the true nature of their power. It is this last-minute insight, however, that makes the chilling climax a success. The message-that love, loyalty, and true friendship can conquer jealousy and hatred-will not be lost on readers. What will attract and hold them, though, are the superbly crafted elements of horror, which are the story's real strength.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC