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Carmody, Isobelle 1958-

CARMODY, Isobelle 1958-

(Isobelle Jane Carmody)

PERSONAL: Born 1958, in Australia. Education: B.A. (literature and philosophy).

ADDRESSES: Home—Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay, Victoria, Australia. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Writer. Formerly worked in journalism and public relations.

AWARDS, HONORS: Australia Council Literature Board grant; Australian Children's Book Council shortlist, 1988, for Obernewtyn; Australian Children's Book Council honor book, 1991, for The Farseekers; Talking Book of the Year Award, 1992, for Scatterlings; Australian Children's Book Council book of the year, 1993, and Children's Literature Peace Prize, 1994, both for The Gathering; Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature shortlist, 2001, for Billy Thunder and the Night Gate.


Scatterlings, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1991, Puffin (New York, NY), 1992.

The Gathering, Puffin (New York, NY), 1993.

Greylands, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1997.

Green Monkey Dreams (stories), Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1996.

(With Steve Taylor) This Way Out: Five Plays, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1998.

The Landlord, Lothian (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1999.

Dreamwalker, illustrated by Steven Woolman, Lothian (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2001.

Wildheart, illustrated by Steven Woolman, Scholastic Australia (Norwood, Victoria, Australia), 2002.

(With Marc McBride) Journey from the Centre of the Earth, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2003.

Angel Fever, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2004.

The Legend of Little Fur, Viking (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2005.

The Cat Dreamer, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2005.

Contributor to Writers on Writing, edited by James Roberts, Barry Mitchell, and Roger Zubrinich, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2002, and The Road to Camelot, edited by Sophie Masson, Random House Australia (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.


Obernewtyn, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1987, Tor (New York, NY), 1999.

The Farseekers, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1990, Tor (New York, NY), 2000.

Ashling, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1995, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

The Keeping Place, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1999, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles: Books One, Two, and Three, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2002.


Darkfall, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.

Darksong, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2002.


Billy Thunder and the Night Gate, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2000, published as Night Gate, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.

The Winter Door, Puffin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2003, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Darkbane, the conclusion to the "Legendsong" trilogy; The Sending, the fifth work in the "Obernewtyn Chronicles."

SIDELIGHTS: A native of Australia and one of its most popular science fiction authors, Isabelle Carmody has built her reputation on a series of young adult novels exploring the fantasy world of Obernewtyn. Carmody began the "Obernewtyn Chronicles" while a student in high school, though she did not complete the work until years later. The first work in the series, Obernewtyn, is set in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust dubbed the Great White due to its effect on the skies. A handful of humans escapes the carnage and reestablishes a form of civilization. In a remote mountain village live the Misfits, mutant exiles on whom grisly experiments are performed. An orphan, young Elspeth Gordie, has a special paranormal talent, which she struggles to hide from society. But when the secret gets out, she is branded a Misfit and sent to Obernewtyn. Teaming up with similarly gifted peers, Elspeth battles the evil Council that would exploit her telepathy to wreak further havoc on Earth. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found that while most of Carmody's characters "are clearly bad or good, she avoids blatant stereotyping by imbuing many with conflicting interests."

In The Farseekers, the second work in the "Obernewtyn Chronicles," Elspeth undertakes a dangerous quest to find both a powerful Misfit who has become stranded in the lowlands and a mysterious collection of books. Joined by several companions, including a telepathic horse, Elspeth travels through enemy camps and devastated wastelands. According to Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada, The Farseekers "blends graceful storytelling with appealing characters."

A series of strange visions are at the center of Ashling, the next book in the series. After Elspeth dreams that she must destroy a supply of terrible weapons, left by the Beforetimers, she leaves the safety of Obernewtyn to enlist the aid of the rebels fighting against the Council. "Much of the story concerns the Misfits' attempts to meet and ally with secular rebel groups, who may tolerate the paranormal talents as little as the religious forces," noted a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. In The Keeping Place, the Misfits are forced to ally with the rebels against the Council, while Elspeth is guided in her journey through the Dreamtrails by a seer and a winged beast.

Night Gate, the first book in Carmody's "Gateway" trilogy, concerns Rage Winnoway, a young girl who desperately wants to help her comatose mother, the victim of an auto accident. While traveling through the forest with her four dogs and a neighbor's goat, Rage steps through a mysterious portal and enters Valley, a strange land where the teen's animal companions are transformed into semi-human creatures. The group then embarks on an important mission: find the wizard who created Valley and Rage's mother will be healed. Reviewing Night Gate in School Library Journal, Tasha Saecker remarked, "Carmody manages to take familiar elements and turn them into something magical and unique," and Booklist critic Jennifer Mattson noted that "Carmody's writing is satisfyingly brocaded … and her elaborate world building will impress genre fans."

In The Winter Door, a sequel, Rage dreams that Valley is being destroyed by an enchanted winter storm, and she realizes that her efforts are needed to save the special world.

Carmody has also produced several stand-alone sci-fi novels, including The Gathering and Greylands. In the former, the action takes place in the quiet suburban community of Cheshunt. When high-schooler Nathaniel moves there with his mother, as Horn Book critic Peter D. Sieruta noted, "He immediately senses the dark side of his 'squeaky-clean' model neighborhood." A strange stench rises; feral dogs roam the streets, and his new school "is ruled by a brutal band of the principal's chosen ruffians," Jeanne Triner observed in a Booklist article. Joining forces with a group of student rebels, Nathaniel joins in the quest to quell the evil in Cheshunt. "Utterly riveting" was the conclusion of a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who added that the novel's "suspense never slackens and the resolutions of the many conflicts are powerfully wrought." According to Triner, in The Gathering Carmody "effectively creates and sustains a sinister atmosphere" to appeal to young fans of horror fiction.

Greylands tells the story of youngsters Jack and Ellen, siblings coping with the suicide of their mother and the resulting emotional withdrawal of their father. Adding to the confusion are the mysteries Jack detects within his social circle: fellow student with mysterious powers and messages. In Jack's mind, the mystery relates to the "greylands" that exist in the world inside his mirror, a place devoid of color and scent. Gillian Rubinstein, writing in the Australian Book Review, stated that the greylands "are an unforgettable metaphor for grief, and one of the strengths of the story is its recognition of children's emotions." Rubinstein had further praise for Greylands, remarking that "Chapter endings are invariably cliff-hangers, and there are some remarkable inventions." While the author's "spur-of-the-moment storytelling style introduces characters and plot elements as they are needed in the narrative" and "sometimes results in inconsistencies and confusions," her text "does give the impression of going through a maze of mirrors."

In an Australian Book Review column, Sophie Masson summed up Carmody's appeal to young readers: "The Celtic element in her work is very strong; evident not only in the general feeling and shape of her sagas, but also in such details as many of the names of characters and places. There is a fascination for fallen worlds in Isobelle Carmody's novels, such as the one created in her Obernewtyn chronicles…. And she has a lot of fun with the taxonomy of her worlds, the creatures living within them, and the powers they hold."



Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.


Australian Book Review, October, 1997, pp. 28, 58.

Booklist, June 1, 1994, p. 1801; April 1, 1995, review of The Gathering, p. 1415; January 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Night Gate, p. 858.

Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, September, 1994, review of The Gathering, p. 9; January, 2005, Krista Hutley, review of Night Gate, pp. 202-203.

English Journal, September, 1995, review of The Gathering, p. 118.

Five Owls, May, 1996, review of The Gathering, p. 102.

Horn Book, November-December, 1994, p. 735; November, 1995, The Gathering, p. 778.

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, November, 2000, review of The Gathering, p. 301.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1994; August 1, 2001, review of Ashling, p. 1075; January 15, 2005, review of Night Gate, p. 117.

Library Journal, September 15, 1999, review of Obernewtyn, p. 115; July, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of The Farseekers, p. 147.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 1994, p. 28.

Magpies, May, 1991, p. 21; March, 1992, p. 32; May, 1994, review of The Gathering, p. 32; March, 1995, review of Ashling and Obernewtyn, p. 6; May, 1996, review of Green Monkey Dreams, p. 50; November, 1997, review of Darkfall, p. 8, and review of Greylands, p. 36; November, 1999, review of The Keeping Place, p. 6; November, 2000, review of Billy Thunder and the Night Gate, p. 32; July, 2002, review of Wildheart, p. 30; March, 2003, review of Darksong and Darkfall, p. 40; March, 2004, Moira Robinson, review of Journey from the Centre of the Earth, p. 30, and Jo Goodman, review of The Winter Door, pp. 32-33.

Publishers Weekly, June 27, 1994, p. 79; November 7, 1994, review of The Gathering, p. 44; August 30, 1999, review of Obernewtyn, p. 57; July 31, 2000, review of The Farseekers, p. 76; October 1, 2001, review of Ashling, p. 42.

School Librarian, August, 1996, review of The Gathering, p. 117.

School Library Journal, July, 1994, p. 116; January, 2005, Tasha Saecker, review of Night Gate, p. 126.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1994, review of The Gathering, p. 283; December, 2000, review of The Farseekers, p. 357; February, 2002, review of Ashling, p. 443.

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