The Obernewtyn Chronicles is an Australian series of speculative fiction novels by Isobelle Carmody set in a world ravaged by a disaster known only as the Great White (presumably a nuclear holocaust). Once the fire stopped raining from the sky, a ruling Council was formed. About the same time, there was a sudden rise in deformed births in both livestock and humans. Afraid of what had just happened, the Council ruled that all mutants, human and animals, should be killed immediately, as would anyone trying to rebel against the Council. They soon founded a new religion, the Herder Faction, which preached the benefits of a natural, puritanical lifestyle and gruesome death to anyone who deviated from the norm.The books follow the adventures of Elspeth Gordie, a teenage girl in an orphanage for the children of executed criminals. After establishing the mood of the world, the mysterious Madam Vega arrives. She quickly finds Elspeth's secret: she's telepathic, which makes her a Misfit, who are normally used as slave labor on remote concentration camps Councilfarms. Instead, Elspeth is sent to Obernewtyn, to be part of a research project to 'heal' these Misfits.The series falls smack dab in the middle of Science Fantasy, with what is fairly obviously a nuclear apocalypse in the backstory and more than a few Beforetimes machines being essential to the plot, yet the Psychic Powers and attitude are given a strong fantasy interpretation. Similarly, the tone is very dark, but hard work does occasionally pay off.To this point, six books in the series have been published:
The Farseekers (1990)
The Keeping Place (1999)
The Stone Key (2008). Split into Wavesong and The Stone Key for the US/Canadian market.
The Sending (2011).
The seventh and final book will be called The Red Queen.
Bad Powers, Bad People: Subverted. Many coercers can stun or cause intense pain, but only one can kill with only a thought. Two if you count Elspeth's brother. They're actually quite nice, once you get to know them. The protagonist's one too.
Benevolent Precursors: (warning, MAJOR SPOILER) the Guannette birds, who the Beforetime government first experimented on, with the result that they have mental powers that exceed any human except Elspeth. They stuck around after the Great White and are trying to make sure that humans wouldn't be stupid enough to reactivate the weaponmachines and cause a second holocaust.
Berserk Button: touch Elspeth and Rushton will kill you. If he thinks she is dead (which happens a couple of times), expect him to move through Heroic BSOD to Death Seeker mode very quickly.
Call On Me: When, in The Stone Key, she thinks that she is drowning, Elspeth calls out Marumanís name in despair. Due to an ancient prophecy, this then unintentionally summons a shipfish (dolphin) who is able to save her. She later invokes this when needing to quickly get from Herder Isle to the west coast.
Chekhov's Gun: there are many in each book, but some span multiple books
The most Triumphant Example for this series, would be Obernewtyn's doors. Introduced in the very first book, and still paying off in book 5.
Chekhov's Gunman: Daffyd. You know that short conversation he had with Elspeth at the beginning of book one? It pays off at the end of book two.
In fact, Chekhov's Army comes into play by books 3 and 4. You know all those minor characters that keep walking around and occasionally interrupting things? If there is a description or a name given of them, they will be significant in some way later on (there is a reason why, for books 3 and 4, there's an index of character names.
Chekhov M.I.A.: Ariel. In fact, he probably counts as a Chekhov's Boomerang, considering the number of times seemingly insignificant things related to him at the time being ridiculously significant later.
Also Darga and Elspeth herself at times.
Someday This Will Come in Handy: combines with Chekhov's Gun - if a concept, objective, or skill is talked about, shown, or demonstrated in passing at the beginning of the book, it will come in handy later. Sometimes even books later.
You Will Know What to Do: Atthis, Marylon, and most of the futurteller Guild operate on this premise. Expect Maruman and Gahltha to hand out similar predictions. They show up so often that it becomes a constant source of irritation and frustration for Elspeth (but she's Genre Savvy enough to know that if they say something seemingly small or insignificant it will probably have weight later on).
Chekhov's Boomerang: the Guannette birds, Obernewtyn, the front doors of Obernewtyn, and the wolves.
Corrupt Church: the Herder faction. They skate the line of Religion of Evil but don't exactly cross over because the baseline values they exposit aren't specifically evil (although warped beyond belief), and their work is in the name of a benevolent (if harsh) god who looks after and loves the people who follow him. Unfortunately their pitch is that their god (and hence them by extension) can damn the ones who don't follow them. They preach that their way is the right and good way, and anyone who says otherwise is lying, insane, or possessed (by demons). However, their end aim is total domination, suppression of anything resembling free will, and zealous power complete with concentration camps, denouncements and burning alive anyone who is different or who opposes them. They honestly think they are helping the Land to a good end, free and pure to be worthy of Ludd. Everyone else who isn't delusional thinks they are tyrannical oppressors whose torture skills are horrific enough to earn the entire order a permanent place beyond the Moral Event Horizon.
Crapsack World: Between the oppressive Council and the toxic Blacklands, there's not a lot of room for hope in the Land.
Dramatic Irony: A lot. Despite the first person narrative, the reader gets a much clearer scope of things than any of the characters, and is able to piece things together much, much faster than the characters (usually this is justified because Elspeth discounts or forgets anything that happens in dreams/dream trails or the minds of others that she probes), however, justified or not, it can get a little annoying. This is especially the case when Elspeth, hovering about the mindstream, sees a memory of the past depicting Hannah Seraphim and Jacob Obernewtyn while they are talking about: escaping from the government's Talent-testing unit, the fact that they are associated with Misfit Talents, the Reichler clinic, the coming of the Great White, how the mountains will be safe, and how Cassandra predicted the whole thing with futuretelling. Yes, because none of those things are ever going to be relevantin this series. It gets even worse when Swallow talks about the ancient promises and the tattoo that just conveniently happens to be the same one used by the government division investigating the possible weaponizing of Misfits in the Beforetime, featuring Guanette birds circling, you know, the birds that happen to have ridiculously skilled mental powers?. By the time you get to Sador where we find carvings which just so happened to be made by the same person who carved the doors of Obernewtyn, who was called "Kassanda", and who just happened to be able to predict the future, it reaches wall banger territory.
Dreaming of Things to Come: Futuretellers enter a meditative trance when making their predictions, while Elspeth gets her share of prophetic dreams from the Guanette birds.
The Empath: Lots of them, but Dameon and Ariel are very prominent.
Enemy Within: Domick leaves Obernewtyn as a spy and takes on the identity of a Council torturer called Mika. Mika becomes his own personality and begins to dominate Domick shortly afterwards.
Heroic Sacrifice: quite a few people. Notables are Elspeth, Sharna, Maruman, Matthew... okay, so more than a few people either sacrifice their lives or freedom for their cause. It's that kind of series.
Ignored Expert: in the Beforetime, Hannah Seraphim, the Reichler Clinic and their associates. The Government probably should have listened, in hindsight.
Mental Fusion: Farseekers are able to form a mindmerge to increase their range. The traditional method uses a group of farseekers pooling their energy to boost the signal of one member, and is limited by the number of minds the sender is able to link with simultaneously (Rushton's one Talent is the ability to combine many minds in this way, although he can't farseek himself). Then Aras comes up with a new method whereby trios of farseekers link to each other then to two other groups, forming a conduit for an unlinked mind to 'slide' along without using up their own energy. In this way, Elspeth is able to farseek all the way from just outside Obernewtyn to Sutrium, half way across the Land.
The Messiah: Beast legends speak of Innle, a human who will lead the beasts to freedom from their slavery. Maruman, Elspeth's mad old cat, has decided that Elspeth is this saviour. He's right.
One World Order: the Council. The Evil kind. The caveat on this is that according to them the Land is the only place on earth left habitable. This isn't true, but they tend to kill or kidnap and enslave anyone who says otherwise. Ironically, the Council, having abolished slavery, can only sell the slaves to the places they're trying to deny exist.
Orphanage of Fear: The Council's orphanages are for the children of rebels and Misfits. They are not nice places.
Power Incontinence: Powerful empaths can't avoid sensing what nearby people are feeling. Dameon feels actual pain if the emotions are negative and strong enough.
Scars Are Forever: played with throughout the series. Initially played straight, especially with Elspeth's scarred feet, which are very painful, until the Eldar Agyllian healer taught her body how to heal itself, hence subverting the trope to hell and back. However this power comes at a price: that she can never scar again, which she only finds out after she spent an entire night in agony getting a tattoo ingrained into her skin, which later disappears without a trace.
Science Fantasy: A mostly fantasy plot in a more sci-fi setting make this difficult to classify as either.
Superior Species: the Agyllians, whose superior intellects and Talents becomes yet another Chekhov's Gun later in the series. This is probably one of the more successful versions of this trope, considering that there is a really good reason why they are like that.
Unperson: Anyone declared a Misfit immediately loses all rights as a citizen.
Unskilled, but Strong: Elspeth is this to the Agyllians, who far, far surpass her in skill and finesse, but not in brute strength.
We ARE Struggling Together: The various rebel leaders all act pretty much idenpendently, and have rather different ideas about both methods and what they want to happen afterwards (in particular who will replace the Council. Eventually resolves into Malik and cronies reluctantly and temporarily agreeing with everyone else.Or at least pretending to...
Xanatos Speed Chess: from what the reader knows of the Agyllians, the incredibly complex series of events that resolve from one small trigger, tend to be influenced and manipulated by them with finesse to achieve their goals, despite the fact that a lot of these triggering events are random and can't possibly be predicted without futuretelling. As a result there are a couple of conclusions that can be reasoned: 1) Due to futuretelling, the entire sequence of events was planned out from the start, meaning that Atthis is a Chessmaster running a Gambit Roulette that works due to said fortunetelling 2) Atthis is running Xanatos Speed Chess, dealing with opportunities and danger as they arise; or 3) the individual sequence of events are only vaguely manipulated based on the (fairly accurate) predictions of human interaction, and most of the time, a Batman Gambit is employed. YMMV on which, or Take a Third Option.