The Sending: Obernewtyn book 6

This review contains spoilers for the previous five books.

It’s important to say at the outset that this is not the book I thought it was.

This is not the final book of the Obernewtyn Chronicles.


I knew that Carmody had wanted to split the last book in half, to properly tell Elspeth’s story; I thought that meant books 5 and 6. No. It meant books 6 and 7 – number 7 being The Red Queen, due out next year. I realised that this book could not be the final one with around 100 pages (of 750) to go. Having just inhaled the other five in preparation for a grand finale, it’s fair to say that I was a little peeved when I came to that realisation. I will try not to let this frustration colour my review….

Let’s recap where we left Elspeth and the Misfits in 2008, with the last book (The Stone Key). Dragon, heir to the Red Queen, is missing, as is Miryum the coercer-knight with the body of her would-be suitor Straaka.The farseeker Matthew is still a slave in the Red Lands. The rebels have destroyed the Council and set up a democracy in its place, with many of them being elected in their cities; the Misfits are slowly, slowly being accepted by society. The Herder Faction has been routed from Herder Isle (sorry, Norseland) thanks to Elspeth. Elspeth has broken Ariel’s hold over Rushton, so there’s no more agonising over he loves me/he loves me not. Sador is basically friends with the Land, and they’ve agreed to send ships to the Red Land to help stop Salamander and the slave trade. Anything else? Maruman is as cranky as ever and oh, Elspeth is only a little closer to having all the necessary keys for stopping a second holocaust from happening.

Elspeth’s quest as Seeker has dominated the plot of the last couple of books; her attempts to find the keys and signs Cassandra left behind have been the motivating force behind most of her actions. Either that, or instructions from the futuretellers, which themselves generally move her quest forward too. The pattern seems set to continue here, with Elsepth having raced home at the end of book 5 on instructions from the oldOnes. Then, for the first half of the book, she finds that she must hurry up and wait as Seeker, while fulfilling her function as Guildmistress and master of Obernewtyn in Rushton’s absence. Important things are happening around her: politically, there are moves to ensure Obernewtyn’s place in the Land is confirmed; people come and go, unexpectedly or not; relationships are formed and changed and, in some cases, severed. But the Seeker’s quest seems a bit stalled, because although the ships are getting ready to go to the Red Lands, where Elspeth and futuretellers have seen Elspeth and Dragon together, Elspeth does not have all of the necessary keys to stop Sentinel from awakening. Plus, Dragon is still missing. Which is a problem.

The first half is light on big action scenes. Some of the most interesting action continues to happen in Elspeth’s dreams, where she learns yet more about the Beforetimers, Cassandra and Hannah (although I was disappointed to see that the publishers have altered the formatting, such that the dreams are no longer in smaller type; this was a marvellous way of making such an experience obviously different from the waking world). That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the first half, because Carmody is by and large a skilful writer who makes it very easy to convince one’s self to ‘just read one more chapter’ (although her love scenes are a bit perfunctory). And as I mentioned, there are important things happening – it’s just that most of them in the personal arena, which the Obernewtyn Chronicles really focus on the most. While there have been major battles and a revolution in the preceding books, Carmody has shown herself to be far more interested in people: how they react to falling in love, losing a loved one, meeting foreigners, having prejudices challenged, or running a small community. Or, indeed, being told that you are the only hope for the world in the face of a second holocaust (no pressure). I do think that this volume could have been trimmed down, because there was a lot of repetition of Elspeth bemoaning her fate and going over and over the things she has learnt and still must find out. I understand that that’s probably quite realistic – humans, as Maruman is fond of saying, do constantly gnaw at things, usually unhelpfully. It just got a little boring.

The second half changes things, although I can’t explain how or why without spoiling things terribly. Just take my word for it. There’s a bit more action, a few revelations and a couple of resolutions, as well as a whole new raft of problems to deal with. Unsurprisingly. There is some character development, although Elspeth’s development as a human has stalled somewhat. She doesn’t seem to change much any more, especially in comparison with the first three books. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, given she was in her late teens then and there were major upheavals in her life to force change – but I certainly didn’t stop changing when I got to my twenties. Perhaps this too is a result of her quest having not quite stalled, but certainly slowed down.

I have been and remain determined to see Elspeth’s quest to the end, but it would be harder to continue reading if the world’s history were not so enthralling. It’s a post-nuclear holocaust world, and I love that, unlike a book such as John Wyndham’s Chrysalids, mind powers are not a result of mutation caused by that holocaust. Carmody keeps revealing more and more of the Beforetime, the end of which is some time – possibly centuries – into our own future. (It’s depressing to think that there might still be a need for a balance of terror at that point.) The hints that Carmody gives about cryogenics, and gene storage, and computers, are really cleverly done. I seriously hope there is resolution of Cassandra’s story, and Hannah’s, as well as Elspeth’s, in Red Queen. The world itself – or at least ‘the Land’, where Elspeth lives – is perhaps a little hampered by having initially been developed by Carmody as a teen; I don’t find it that rich or compelling. The lands of Sador and the Red Lands, introduced later in the series, are certainly more foreign and interesting. (I presume I am not the only one who spends half their time trying to figure out where in our world these places correspond to.)

This is not a stand-alone book, so do not pick it up if you’re curious about Carmody’s work. If you have been on this journey with Elspeth for a while now and are desperate to see just how Carmody is going to tie all of those threads together, then of course you have to read it… but, I would suggest, wait for the last book to be published.

10 responses

  1. I haven’t actually read this in case it has spoilers in it.

    I feel for your frustration. I had realised it wasn’t the last book after all (this cutting them up for some markets and not other doesn’t help the confusion either), but it isn’t easy to work out.

    I have all the others as ebooks, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s going on, ebookwise, with this one. However, I actually chose not to start The Stone Key when I realised what a wait there was going to be for the end of the story. So I think I’ll just wait on this one until things get clarified and we have dates for the last book etc. Then I’ll reread the early ones and carry on right to the end. That’s my plan. (Of course, clearly that was your plan to and if crashed and burned on you.)

    1. Spoilers for The Stone Key, but I will always make sure to say if there are spoilers for the actual book under consideration!

      Yes, that plan did indeed crash and BURN for me. Are you saying that it exists as a complete book somewhere, or that other areas are waiting til next year for the whole thing?

      1. The whole story isn’t written yet. (Do you know about – that’s where you’re most likely to get any information.)

        The Stone Key was published in the US as two books (Wavesong and The Stone Key), which is totally confusing. It mucks up people’s awareness of whether they have the whole story or not, since any random copy of The Stone Key may be the whole book or half. I have the ebooks as two books since they came out in the US. I have a paper copy that is the whole book. LIke I said, totally confusing.

        As far as I understand it, The Sending is now the second-to-last book in the series (because The Stone Key can be one book or two, numbering from the beginning causes issues and it is easier to go backwards), with the last one probably called The Red Queen and currently being written. The Sending is only out in Australia at this point, I believe.

        No one is currently clear what the US release will be. It’s presently scheduled for next year, and is probably also called The Sending, but no-one seems to know for sure.

        Does that help at all?

        1. Awesome. How totally ridiculous!!

  2. Wow. I feel for you! Can’t believe it’s not the last book.

    (and if she’s still writing the next one, it doesn’t count as one book cut in half!!)

    1. I can’t tell if she’s still writing or if this is a ploy to not put out a book to rival GRRM or Rothfuss.

  3. […] the Stone Key and The Sending, Isobelle Carmody; I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett; end of Life on Mars S2; This is Not a […]

  4. I’ve just read it and I made exactly the same mistake as you! I too thought it was the last book, and kept waiting for things to amp up, and then finally, with only a small sliver of the book to go, I realised, “Wait a minute. She can’t finish this story in the space left – this can’t be the last book!” Went online, looked it up…. gotta wait another year (or ten, knowing Carmody!) for the last, last book. All of this meant I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have, because I was impatiently waiting for her to get to Sentinel and confront Ariel for the big climax, but of course, that is still several hundred pages away. On the positive side, I believe The Red Queen is already written (I think I read Isobelle stating this in an interview or blog somewhere), and will be published sooner rather than later.

  5. I’ve been waiting so many years for this book to finish now, that somewhere between The Keeping Place and The Stone Key, I stopped religously checking for book news all of the time. It really made me alot happier! Luckily, I knew The Sending was the second last book before I read it, or I would have been very angry!

    I reckon at this point, Isobelle’s book delays are a bit of an affectionate fan in joke. There should be an internet meme somewhere.

    I can’t be too mad at her though. I’ve met her before and she is so nice I forgive her the inevitable delays every time.

    And Isobelle has said that The Red Queen will come out the second half of next year 🙂 It is all written. Any delay now would be publishing concerns.

  6. […] be so) we won’t be stuck wondering about really serious issues. Of course, Dyer COULD pull a Carmody/Obernewtyn on us, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t do that to us. PRETTY […]

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