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Review/Random Thoughts On: The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody

on November 24, 2015

Red QueenThe Red Queen (The Obernewtyn Chronicles #7)
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 1108p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {courtesy the publisher/}:

After years spent struggling to balance her desires with her responsibilities, Elspeth Gordie has fully embraced her role as the Seeker. Battle-scarred and lovelorn, haunted by memories of her beloved Rushton, Elspeth is not prepared for what she finds at the end of the black road she travels: the Compound, a lost community with a startling secret. As Elspeth strives against her captors, she learns that Rushton and her friends have fallen into the hands of the deadly slavemasters that rule the Red Land. And worst of all, as Elspeth stumbles, the Destroyer creeps ever closer to his goal: awakening the cataclysmically destructive weaponmachines that Elspeth has been charged with stopping. Has all her sacrifice been in vain?

Full of romance, action, and suspense, The Red Queen is a worthy finale to such a breathtakingly elaborate series.

Please note: This review probably contains a ginormous amount of ***SPOILERS*** for the previous books in The Obernewtyn Chronicles and assumes a pretty deep familiarity with the overall plot. This is also not really a *review* so much as a brain dump upon finishing this series. 

So it is here, it is here, it is finally here. As I’ve mentioned several thousand times, one of my few reading friends recommended this book to me when I was 14 and in year 9 in high school, waaaay way back in 1996. This girl and I had met in primary school and when I moved away, we communicated by writing letters where we talked about books we were reading, high school dramas and whatever else we had going on. At that time, the first three books were published and I never dreamed I’d be waiting 19 years for the conclusion. I think at that stage, there were only meant to be four or five books! That turned into 7, several of which are massive 1000+ page behemoths.

It was released on a Thursday and I trekked to my local shopping centre to track a copy down. I didn’t have much hope – we have one local bookstore that to be honest, is a bit random with what it carries. Lots of “bargain” stuff, a good selection of older fiction but “new releases” can be up to a month or two old. I asked but they told me although it was on order, it hadn’t been sent from their supplier yet and would be at least a week. Did I want to order a copy? No thank you, I was determined to get it before that. There are 3 department stores in the shopping centre so I tried those too although with even less confidence. Then I took to twitter to see who could get back to me the quickest about definitely having it in stock. The winners were the fab people at Dymocks Geelong who put a copy away for me. We’re off to Geelong, I told my husband, who pulled a face at the prospect of this 90min round trip. Luckily he’s a reader too so although he wasn’t entirely thrilled, he got it.

When I had it, I was surprised by my reluctance to actually start it. When you have been waiting for something for so long, it builds up to incredible heights in your mind. I wanted so many things from this book, what if it didn’t give me all of them? Or actually, any of them? What had I been spending the last 20 years waiting for? I was also going away over the weekend and not planning on taking it so on Friday, I settled on the couch with the intention of getting through as much of it as possible.

This book encompasses misfit Elspeth Geordie’s final mission to destroy the weaponmachines and also return the Queen of the Red Land to her people. It’s a long and quite winding story during which we learn a lot about the Beforetime and even more about Cassy and Hannah Seraphim and Jacob Obernewtyn. For someone who loves post-apocalyptic stories as I do, the section on Habitat (which is, no denying, extremely length, it was far longer than I expected it to be) was extremely interesting. I thought it was a very thorough study on what might happen to an isolated society as it evolved over a long period of time. In some ways, it would’ve made an excellent book all on its own but in terms of being shoehorned into this one, it served a purpose in many ways and in others, provided a bit of distraction.

The whole series has been moving towards Elspeth’s final showdown with the Destroyer and much has been made of who the Destroyer is and how Elspeth was going to defeat them. I have to admit, I’ve had lots of theories about the Destroyer over the years but never once did I touch upon who it actually turned out to be. Perhaps because I dismissed that character from my mind almost 20 years ago but since reading The Red Queen I went back and re-read quite a bit of the book that introduces the character who turns out to the Destroyer and it’s actually quite well planned and clever in the way that it plays out through orchestrated manipulation. There’s no denying though that even though I thought that part was well planned I’m not overly sure it was as well executed as it could’ve been. It seemed almost rushed compared to the rest of the book where Elspeth took forever to escape Habitat and forever to get to the Red Land and forever to get to the showdown. I expected that to last much longer, to be a bigger portion of the book considering it was one of the end games, so it was a little surprising that it took the time that it did. It was full of interesting revelations and I wish I’d almost had more time to let them sink in, to stop and examine them instead of rushing.

I can’t talk about this series without talking about Elspeth and Rushton and how I’ve longed for them to finally be happy! The poor things, they’ve had quite the courtship – first poor Rushton had to deal with thinking Elspeth was dead (probably more than once), then she ran away from him every time he tried to talk to her and he thought she disdained him because he can’t access his powers or really use them in any useful way. By the time Elspeth figured she was ready, she thought Rushton had moved on, then he was kidnapped and tortured by Ariel and programmed to kill her. Then when they finally do get a chance to connect properly and physically, he asks her to bond with him officially and she has to leave on her final journey, the one that he knows nothing about because she’s forbidden to tell anyone. I re-read all their interactions as well since finishing this book and they take up a startlingly small amount of page space. In this one they don’t even cross paths until almost the end of the story and it makes me wonder how something has had such a major impact on me. But it has! Somehow Isobelle Carmody can say something in a couple of pages that has the impact of a thousand pages. The two of them are one of my favourite couples in literature and they needed  to be together.

I knew with a book like this, the ending was never going to be neat and tidy. There would be sadness, there would be some regret and some confusion. There are things that are tied up well and you can get a glimpse of how things will be in the future but there are a lot of things I wish I knew, that I wish I had more clarification on. Nevertheless, the ending satisfied me overall, even though I had questions. In finishing such an epic saga there will always be questions I think and those little things that you wonder about. I know one thing – I finished this book and immediately wanted to start it from the beginning again. To read it slower and more thoughtfully because I know I raced through it looking for the end and the answers to the questions I had before starting it. I want to be able to read the whole series as one, to put together all the little hidden clues and keys, the information at hand at one time instead of trying to remember or searching for it. A lot may complain about how long this book took coming but there’s no denying that it’s been an epic journey, one of the more richly detailed stories I’ve ever read. You only begin to realise how much detail there is late in the piece – it seems really quite simple when you first start out. Each volume gets a little more complex, a little more deep until the big picture is quite ginormous.

It’s been a fun ride. It’s taken up a large portion of my life, reading these books and awaiting the next installment and it honestly feels quite weird that it’s over now. I see that there is more than one door left open for Isobelle Carmody to revisit this world in the future, be it the Beforetime, the time of these stories or even the future, should she so choose and I’d be happy to pick up anything relating to this world. I’ve never gotten around to reading her other series, I believe fans of that one have been waiting almost as long as fans of Obernewtyn for its conclusion. Perhaps when it’s done, I will dive into it. There’s no denying that this is my biggest literary commitment – I doubt I will ever wait 20 years in the future to ever finish another series. It’s been many things – frustrating, heartbreaking but above all, pretty damn wonderful. It will always remain one of my favourite ever series of books and I think it says a lot that it’s held my interest for so long, from the time I was a teenager to being a woman in her thirties. I’m glad I got to experience it, the highs and lows.


Book #171 of 2015


The Red Queen is book #69 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge


6 responses to “Review/Random Thoughts On: The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody

  1. […] Source: Review/Random Thoughts On: The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody […]

  2. Melissa says:

    Great review! I think I started reading the series in 1997, a similar time to you. I’m from Newcastle. On reflection, six months after TRQ’s release, think a problem with taking sooooo long to finish the series is that many fans have grown up. I loved the books in my late teens, twenties, but now in my thirties, they didn’t quite match up to some of the other amazing fantasy writing that I’ve been consuming! I still loved the characters, and wanted to know what happened, but… That’s okay. I’m sure my daughter will love it and say it’s awesome for me, in a couple of years.

  3. Kirsten Singh says:

    Great series, and a very good read. But I can’t feel, it was not rushed too much information crammed together, and really it didn’t go into a whole greath depth exactly, if Rushton and Elspeth are to be bonded, etc. It just read Rushton doesn’t want to leave her, very disappointing

  4. Gaie Wheeler says:

    omg i could have written this review i also have been hooked since a 14yo in 1996!! I have had the Red Queen for 2 years without starting it until last week as I also could not bear it to end. I have reread the entire series ( How good are ebooks!!!!) so it is all fresh, this i have done everytime a new one was released to re emerse myself in the obernewtyn world. Thanks for a great review😊

  5. Jan Elizabeth Ross says:

    Is this the end? The book stopped with her captured, waking up from their sleep weapon, and WHAT??? WHERE ARE THE WOLVES? WHAT HAPPENS TO DRAGON?

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