Elspeth Gordie is a Misfit, outsider and orphan. She spends her time collecting dangerous Whitestick; tainted material created in the aftermath of the apocalyptic Great White; with other orphans from the orphan homes she circulates. The Council never allows the orphans to stay in any one orphan home for long enough to make friends and besides, as a Misfit, 'friends' may be hard to make.
Jes, Elspeth's brother, has dreams of becoming a Herder; an overly superstitious religious figure, prone to denouncing ordinary people as defective; an ambition that sickens and worries Elspeth as, being a secret Misfit, she is at constant risk from the Herders' perilous fanaticism.
Elspeth has always known that she was different. Even as a child she could 'hear' what people were thinking, and sometimes she could 'see' things before they happened. She also had a way of changing a person's will to suit her own; a talent that came in handy when it came time to hide away.
Elspeth lives in constant fear of being found out as a Misfit. If the Herders or Council knew of her talents, she would be burnt as a seditioner (from the word sedition), just like her parents, and Jes would be burnt along with her. That is why when Madam Vega; mistress of the dreaded and mysterious Obernewtyn, residence of Misfits, comes to visit the orphan home where Jes and Elspeth currently reside, Elspeth is sick with fear.
To cut it short, Elspeth is named a Misfit and is sent to Obernewtyn, a place run by people who claim to investigate the Misfits and look for a cure to their abilities. But at Obernewtyn, everything is not as it seems, and Elspeth Gordie's arrival is the catalyst for great changes.
Obernewtyn is book one in a seven-book-long series by Australian author Isobelle Carmody. Obernewtyn was originally published in 1987 and 1988 by Random House and Penguin Books respectively. Isobelle Carmody began writing the Obernewtyn series when she was just fourteen-years-old and the books have become her most celebrated to date.
"I dream of those other worlds and places where life is enchantingly complicated, more honourable, and where there is still room for noble deeds and great quests; a world in which even a Misfit might become a hero" Isobelle Carmody 1994, Obernewtyn (back cover).
Obernewtyn won the Marcus Clark Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript and in 1988, Obernewtyn was shortlisted for both the Book of the Year for Older Readers and the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. Carmody also received an Australian Council of the Arts Writer's Grant to help complete Obernewtyn.
The books in the series are as follows: Obernewtyn (1987)
The Farseekers (1990)
The Keeping Place (1999)
The Stone Key (2008)
The Sending (2011)
The Red Queen (predicted to be 2013)