I saw the moon crack and open like an egg, and a seethe of transparent beasts emerged . . .
I heard a sound like thunder inside the earth and the ground shook and broke open like a vast stony maw. It spat out fire and I saw wolves falling into a molten gold stream . . .
I made my way along the ancient tunnel, following Maruman, who ran lightly ahead of me.
I did not ask how he had come to be here. He was the Moonwatcher as I was the Seeker.
This was where we had been destined to come together.
Before Elspeth Gordie can continue her journey to find Sentinel and prevent it unleashing the horrors of the Great White, she must fight free of a strange prison, where people are laid to sleep forever or cling to a suffocating existence, believing the world beyond their walls is already utterly annihilated.
But at the end of her journey, nothing is as she imagined. She is drawn into the struggle for a kingdom, only to find the Destroyer is at the heart of the turmoil, waiting for her.
Somehow she must do what she has sworn to do, for the sake of the world and all of its creatures. She must complete her quest, no matter what it costs . . .
The highly anticipated dramatic conclusion to the much-loved Obernewtyn Chronicles from award-winning and bestselling author Isobelle Carmody. Drawing to a close the journey of Elspeth Gordie and the Misfits, The Red Queen will surprise and thrill readers right to the very last page.
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Comments about The Red Queen:
This was a terrific way to end such a fantastic season! I have read & re-read this whole series & only just finished this book for the second time! I love this book as it keeps on giving! You really develop a greater understanding for the characters & why they act the way they do when you read it the second time! Wonderful & talented author & a 6 star rating if I could give it!
Comments about The Red Queen:
A great long awaited ending to an interesting tale. beautifully written as always. I would recommend this series to anybody wanting a novel to make you think.
Comments about The Red Queen:
What a disappointing end to a much loved series.
At over 1100 pages reading The Red Queen turned into a chore, much of the book could have been left out without affecting the final outcome. Pages and pages of rambling story and very little action (most of which happens when Elspeth is asleep!) lead to the final 200 pages feeling rushed.
This is really only for people who have read the obernewtyn series from the start and have to know how it ends.
Comments about The Red Queen:
The end of a series is always a sweet and sorrowful event, but this one was certainly worth the wait. I could not imagine how Isobelle would resolve all of the issues developed in the earlier books and yet she does so with great aplomb...and still throws in a few surprises!
The repetition of some points, caused me a little irritation at times but I can well imagine that some readers may need the memory jog now and then.
Just brilliant - an amazing Australian author!
Comments about The Red Queen:
Comments about The Red Queen:
Thrilled with the long awaited conclusion to the Obernewtyn series.
Comments about The Red Queen:
Been waiting 4 years for this book to come out and im soo glad its finally here for me to read!
Comments about The Red Queen:
After so much waiting and talk from the publishers about pushing publication dates (back years!) to ensure the book was done right it was a total mess. An unfullfilling conclusion. I'd only say read it if you already started the series and are now trapped needing to know the ending.
Comments about The Red Queen:
I had high expectations for this book, and Isobelle Carmidy met them.
'Drink slowly. Your body is unaccustomed to wakefulness,' said a cool, unfamiliar, masculine voice. Something cold and wet touched my lips and I flinched, opening my eyes to dark- ness so complete that I could not see the man tending me. I tried to speak, but my mouth would not shape the words. I tried moving but my body would not obey me. Fighting panic, I formed a farseeking tendril, determined at least to probe the stranger's thoughts for answers.
The effort made my head spin, and the probe dissipated uselessly. I fought down terror at the realisation that I could not use my Talents or move or smell anything. I could hear and feel, I told myself firmly, if no more than the agitated hammering of my own heart. I was stretched out on a smooth, flat, surface; not a bed, but some sort of padded bench.
Yet I had absolutely no idea how I had got there.
Inchoate fears swirled in my mind until my fingers spasmed. That brought a wash of relief, for it suggested my paralysis might be only temporary. But it also told me that it was not merely weakness preventing me from moving. There were bands across my wrists, ankles, hips, chest and forehead, holding me immobile.
I was a captive.
But why would anybody bother restraining someone so weak they could barely lift a finger?
Willing strength into my hands, I stretched out my fingers to their fullest extent. The tips on both sides brushed a smooth curved surface. I relaxed for a moment then stretched out my toes, straining at the ankle bindings until once more I felt the same curving surface.
The touch of a cold metal rim against my lips again startled me and when the band around my forehead loosened, I thought for a moment that I had weakened it. Then a large hand cupped my head and tilted it gently so that I could drink more easily, and I realised my captor had loosened the binding.
I drank greedily, for I was terribly thirsty.
'Who are you?' I managed to croak as my head was laid down again, and the band around my forehead tightened once more.
'I am one of the Tumen that serve God,' my attendant answered tranquilly.
'God?' Fear jolted the word from me, because God was an archaic Herder term for Lud. The thought that I might have fallen into the hands of fanatical Herder priests horrified me, but the sect had been completely overthrown by rebels both in the Land and in their Norseland and Herder Isle strongholds. Effectively there was no Herder Faction any longer. Of course it was possible one or two of the warrior priests remained at large and might have joined renegade soldierguards and rebels who had served the traitorous Malik. All three groups had an avowed hatred of Misfits and might have made common cause.
Yet it was impossible to believe that my serene, meticulous attendant was one of their ilk. But if the man was not a Herder, then why had he taken me captive?
I tried again to think what had happened to me. My last memory was of journeying in the high mountains above the Valley of Obernewtyn with Gahltha and Maruman. I had a clear recollection of the too-thin air in the high passes that had made my ears sing and my head ache, and I could vividly recall the way the icy wind had stung the tip of my nose. But I could not remember my purpose in that journeying.
I felt a movement at my side and gathered myself to ask, 'Why have you bound me? I am too weak to try to escape.' Despite the water my throat felt very dry and sore.
'You are not a captive,' the Tumen said calmly.
'Then why am I tied up?' I growled, nettled by the obvious absurdity of his words.
'You have proven resistant to the cryopod mechanism and have been immobilised to prevent sudden movements that might result in physical harm before a receptive sleep can be facilitated,' he answered.
I had no idea what a cryopod was, but once in a past-dream, the Beforetime teknoguilder Doktaruth had spoken of experimental cryosleep pods within which animals and birds fell into a death-like sleep, but one from which they could wake days or months or even years later, unchanged. In my dream, Doktaruth had told Cassy of new human-sized pods. Why anyone would want to put people or beasts to sleep for long periods, I could not guess, but it was quite possible the use of cryosleep pods for humans had progressed to common usage. After all, I had no idea how much time had elapsed between the Beforetimers' conversation in my dream and the Great White that had ended their world.
But if this was a later version of Doktaruth's human-sized cryosleep pod, why had the Tumen put me into it?
I shivered at the thought that I had been inside a cryopod, subject to its power to invoke an unbreakable deepsleep. Yet it would explain the long nightmarish period of sleep from which I had fought so hard to wake. In truth, it had been only my ability to draw on the deadly spirit power at the bottom of my mind that had enabled me to break free of it.
I strove again to recall what had happened to bring me into the hands of the Tumen, but there was a wall in my mind obscuring whatever had happened between my travels in the high mountains and my waking here. Dragon's subconscious had built a wall in her mind to protect her from the memory of her mother's brutal death, and I wondered uneasily what terrible thing might have happened to provoke my mind to do the same.
As if in answer, a vision came to me of Dragon lying with her eyes closed fast, her beauty striking as ever, but marred by a dark rainbow of fading bruises and healing cuts. Her eyes opened, and the corners of her swollen lips lifted in a smile before the vision faded, leaving me bereft and utterly confused. There had been love and recognition in the girl's eyes, though my last clear memory of Dragon was of her glaring at me in uncomprehending fear and hatred after I had broken down the wall in her mind to bring her out of her months- long coma, only to discover she retained no memory of her years at Obernewtyn or of our friendship. She had known me only as the person responsible for the pain she experienced when she remembered her mother's murder. Ironically, the memory, long suppressed, sank once more when she regained consciousness. All that remained to her had been the long, lonely, feral years of her childhood, haunting the Beforetime ruins on the West Coast.
The futuretellers and empaths had insisted her lost memories would return and were merely temporarily submerged by the trauma of assimilating her mother's betrayal and death. But Dragon had disappeared before that could happen, and we had searched high and low to no avail. The only news of her since had come obliquely from the Westland where the future-teller Dell had seen a vision of Dragon returning to Oldhaven, which had been the Beforetime ruins she had inhabited for so long. But she had been frightened away by the work being undertaken there before anyone had spotted her.
After the first stab of sorrow, I found the vision of Dragon awake and smiling lifted my spirits. Whether a memory of something I had forgotten, or a glimpse of the future, it meant that Dragon had remembered me and all I had been to her, or would one day. And if it was a future vision, then it meant I had a future beyond this suffocating darkness.
Determinedly, I immersed myself in the memory of travelling in the mountains in the hope that I could learn how I had fallen prey to the Tumen. When I was so deep in the memory that I all but felt the wind whipping at my hair, I experienced a sense of solemnity that convinced me I had travelled to the mountains for some specific and important purpose. Given there were no human settlements in the taint-streaked heights, the most likely reason for my journey would have been to consult the Agyllian Elder, Atthis. The ancient bird dwelt in an eyrie atop an inaccessible stone tor in the high mountains, and the only time I had gone there, I had been carried in a net, delirious and near death. But I might have set off anticipating that Atthis would foresee my need and send fliers to fetch me. Or she might have summoned me, in which case fliers would have been waiting for me.
Another vision came to me of a queer, domed building, white and radiant atop a high ledge bathed in sunlight. It was obviously a Beforetime building and the mountain peaks rearing up darkly around it told me it was almost certainly somewhere in the high mountains. Perhaps the Tumen dwelt in some secret mountain enclave, and I had stumbled on it. I had a fleeting memory of scaling the high cliff beneath the white dome, but even as I tried to coax it out, I experienced the sickening sensation of falling. Then nothing.
Was that what had happened? I had seen the shining white building and tried to climb up to it, only to fall? A blow to the head might well have affected my memory and blinded me, and if the building was inhabited by the Tumen, might they not have found me unconscious and injured, and brought me inside? But why put me into a Beforetime device and try to make me sleep?
The question finally opened a crack in the wall of forgetting, allowing three disconnected memory fragments to blow through my mind like leaves carried on a gust of wind: I heard Maruman bidding me look, and when I obeyed, I saw the Herder-bred guard dog Darga on the misty path below my turret window; then I was crouched beside a shining, steam-wreathed pool surrounded by dense greenery, a silver- white wolf gazing balefully at me across the water. In the third vision, I was standing on a slope of eroded rock, capped and gloved against the icy wind, snow flying over me from higher peaks in a glittering arc, the Sadorian tribesman, Ahmedri, beside me.
The crack closed, but the disconnected visions had made one thing clear. Darga's presence meant that I had not travelled to the mountains merely to consult Atthis. I had been summoned to leave Obernewtyn to begin the final stage in my long quest to find and disable the Balance of Terror weaponmachines that had destroyed the Beforetime, for Atthis had told me the Herder dog would reappear only when it was time for me to leave Obernewtyn forever. This had seemed a macabre riddle, for Darga was thought to have perished in the firestorm that killed his beloved human companion, Jik. But the Agyllians had saved my life when I was near death, so Atthis must have intervened to save Darga. But why had she not simply said as much? As to why Atthis might want to see me, that was clear now, too. She had long promised we would meet and talk one last time before the final part of my quest, and I must have been on my way to that meeting when I encountered the Tumen.
But where did the Sadorian tribesman fit in? Picturing Ahmedri's handsome, sullen face, I wondered if the answer lay in the task set him by the overguardian of the Sadorian Earthtemple: to find his brother 's bones and return them to Sador. The overguardian had told him I would lead him to his brother's bones and so he had insisted upon accompanying me whenever I left Obernewtyn. Perhaps he had simply followed me up into the mountains.
This thought roused a memory of my furtive departure from Obernewtyn, under the cover of night and a thick, white mist, mere days before I was to depart for the Red Land as part of the expedition being mounted to prevent an invasion foreseen by the futuretellers. I felt a stab of pain, for I had left like a thief in the night because Atthis had commanded that no one must know I was leaving.
I recoiled from the memory and turned my attention to the four ships that journeyed to the Red Land on a quest to protect the Land, Sador and the Norselands from the Gadfian horde that had invaded and enslaved the Red Land. Neither the Sadorian overguardian nor the futuretellers offering this prediction had said how a mere four ships could stop the Gadfian horde, but the obvious answer had been that Dragon would accompany the expedition. As the long-lost daughter of the queen who had once ruled the Red Land, she was the natural heir to the throne, and her striking resemblance to her mother seemed to fulfil a prophecy that the Redlanders would win back their freedom only when the Red Queen returned. Seeing her, they would rise up and overthrow their invaders.
I had intended to accompany Dragon to the Red Land, for aside from my affection for the girl, I had come to believe that the fulfilment of my own quest lay in that hot and distant land. Despite leaving Obernewtyn so secretively, I had still anticipated joining the expedition, for the futuretellers had seen Dragon and me together there. But sometime after my midnight departure from Obernewtyn, Maruman had told me that I would not travel to the Red Land with the four ships. I would never return to Obernewtyn or the Land again.
Even as Dell had foretold, I had left all I loved when I set off to fulfil my quest.
Certainly I had not loved the dour Ahmedri, and I could clearly remember my fury when he insisted on following me around in the belief I would lead him to his brother's bones. Yet the fragment of memory I had of us in the mountains together meant we must have come to some sort of accommodation.
With a shock, I remembered that the tribesman had not been the only one to follow me. The Twentyfamilies gypsy leader Swallow had come to the mountains too, accompanied by the wilful daughter of the cruel and corrupt Councilman Radost who had dominated the Council that once ruled the Land. And there had been dear, blind Dameon and the strange young enthraller, Gavyn. They and their beast companions had been waiting for me when I arrived at the Skylake, deep in the high mountains, all save Ahmedri claiming to have been called to accompany me by a voice that had spoken to them in their dreams.
That voice could only have belonged to Atthis.
Now memories came thick and fast. I saw the human-hating Brildane arrive at the Skylake, pouring over the lip of the moonlit valley in a swift and furious silvery tide. The leader of the pack had sent me there to await his decision as to whether they would join me on my quest, but the wolves had come without their leader and Rheagor had arrived just in time to thwart a coup and stop one of the older wolves killing me. I had been profoundly relieved when he had announced that the pack would accompany me, for although I had never desired the company of the Brildane, Atthis had told Maruman my quest would fail if I could not convince the wolves to go with me. Characteristically contrary, Maruman had refused to explain why I needed the wolves. Nor would Rheagor tell me what had made him decide to allow the pack to go with me, save that it had involved the mysterious practice of seliga, which enabled beasts to look into the future.
The wolves led us from the mountains to an enormous subterranean Beforetime pipe they called the graag, which would enable us to pass safely beneath an expanse of virulently tainted Blacklands lying across the way we must go. Maddeningly, I could not recollect why we had needed to go beyond the Blacklands nor could I recall what happened after we had entered the graag. I strove fiercely to remember, and was rewarded with a flashing vision of Gavyn staring fixedly upward, his filthy face lit by a greenish yellow glow. His customary vagueness had been replaced by an intent eagerness that completely transformed him, but before I could try to widen the memory, the Tumen loosened the restraining band about my forehead, breaking my concentration.
'Where . . . where are my companions?' I croaked after he had trickled more water into my mouth.
'They have been resurrected,' he answered, as the band again tightened about my head.
The words froze my heart, because the Herder Faction used that term to describe a person who, having confessed and repented their wickedness, was burned at the stake. The thought of my friends being tortured and given to the Herder flame roused the horrific memory of the burning of my parents. I had not seen their execution because my brother Jes had clasped me to him, pressing my face to his chest to prevent the dreadful vision being scoured into me. But the stench of charred flesh and my parents' screams of mortal agony had seared themselves into my brain.
I thrust the appalling memory from me, telling myself that I would hardly be treated so gently if my companions had been burned. The word resurrection must have some other meaning for the Tumen. Most likely the others were sleeping in cryopods and the term was connected to that. Since none of them had the dark spirit strength I possessed, they would have been unable to wake themselves. But imagining them trapped in sleep was a good deal better than imagining them dead. At least if they lived I could rescue them.
But first, I must rescue myself.
I considered my captor. It was impossible to believe he should have no interest in his captive, and yet the Tumen had asked me nothing. Perhaps I had been interrogated before being put to sleep. Torture could have affected my memory, though it was hard to imagine the passionless, pleasant Tumen torturing anyone. Of course another more violent Tumen might have performed that service, but it seemed more likely to me that the blank spots in my memory were the result of my time in the cryopod.
The question that needed answering was why the Tumen was trying so hard to make me sleep, given his claim that I was not a captive. If I knew what he wanted, I might be able to muster an argument that would make him free me. Failing this I would have to escape or coerce him. Before I could do anything, however, I had to regain my strength. Fortunately, no matter what was wrong with my body, its self-healing capacity would tend to any injury in time. My inability to produce a stable farseeking probe was more worrying, though most likely it was simply the natural outcome of my use of spirit strength, which always drained me.
All at once I felt the heaviness of exhaustion, and I wondered if the cryopod was trying to draw me back into its power. I would heal far more quickly if I gave in to sleep and there was no need to fear it now that I knew I had the power to wake myself. The only problem was that evoking spirit power would drain me all over again, leaving me conscious but in the same uselessly depleted state.
I decided to question the Tumen, since he appeared willing enough to supply answers, and for the moment there was nothing else I could do. The more I learned about him and his people, the better my chance of finding a way to free myself. If only I could see his facial expressions, for his polite serenity seemed like another kind of wall and I needed to discover what lay behind it.
I made an effort to establish his whereabouts in the room. This was only a passive use of my Talent so my weaknesses ought not to matter, but strangely, I could feel nothing. The Tumen must have slipped out while I was lost in thought. I decided to take advantage of his absence and used as much physical force as I could muster on the bond about one wrist to test its strength.
'Do not struggle,' advised the Tumen.
I started violently and tried again to locate him, but either my mind was weaker than I had thought, or he was wearing a device to deflect my Talents, for I could not discern his presence at all. The idea that he might be shielding himself frightened me because it meant he knew what I was, and Herders had a fanatical hatred of Misfits. But my initial fear quickly cooled – I was far from convinced that my dispassionate attendant was a Herder. More likely I was too weak to exert even passive Talent.
The Tumen cupped my head to lift it and feed me water again and this time I strove to use the physical contact to reach his mind. Still I could feel nothing and the uneasy thought came to me that perhaps my time in the cryopod had affected more than my memory.
'Did you put my companions into cryopods?' I asked.
'All viable human specimens entering the catchment zone are put into cryopods,' the Tumen said.
I relaxed slightly at having one guess confirmed. 'What of the animals that were with us? Did you put them into cryopods, too?'
'There are a limited number of cryopods suitable for animal specimens available at this facility,' the Tumen said. 'Eden is the designated repository for animal specimens. When the current program was activated, animal and bird specimens entering the catchment zone were acquired, but when there was no response from Eden to repeated requests for collection of specimens, their acquisition was discontinued.'
So he and his people had no interest in capturing Maruman or Gahltha, which meant they must be free and waiting to hear from me.
I wondered incredulously if he could possibly be talking about the same Eden that Doktaruth had mentioned in my Beforetime dreams. It seemed very likely, given she had talked of it as the destination for cryosleep pods containing animals.
I would have tried to farseek Maruman then and there, but since I was too weak to make even passive contact with the mind of someone touching me, I knew I would have no hope of reaching the old cat's singular mind. In any case, he might be far away. Had I not dreamed of him prowling through a ruined Beforetime city in the midst of a white desert as I slept?
Unless I was in that city!
The thought opened another crack in the wall of forgetting and I remembered that we had left the high mountains seeking such a city. I had been following in the footsteps of the Beforetimer Jacob Obernewtyn, whose dreams of this city had led him to abandon his lonely vigil at Obernewtyn in the hope of locating other survivors. Unfortunately for me, he had taken Cassandra's key, given to him for safekeeping by Hannah Seraphim. She had obviously not foreseen that he would leave Obernewtyn, forcing me to follow him to retrieve it, because it was vital to my quest.
The thought that I might have reached the city of Jacob's dreams thrilled me. Certainly we had entered the graag on the way to seeking it, led by a wolf pack whose ancestor had been captive there; maybe this Tumen who had taken us prisoner was an inhabitant of that city. I could not imagine he was one of the 'shining beings' that inhabited Jacob's dream city, referred to in his journal. More likely the original inhabitants had died out and the Tumen had happened on the city and taken up residence there.
'Where am I?' I wondered, only realising I had voiced the question aloud when the Tumen answered.
'You are in a cryopod base unit on the lowest level of the Galon Institute in the Pellmar Quadrants.'
The name Pellmar Quadrants was familiar, though for the moment I could not place it. More importantly, the Tumen had not said we were in a city. He had spoken of a facility, which as far as I understood it, was the word Beforetimers used to describe a settlement dedicated to a particular purpose. 'What is the Galon Institute?' I asked. 'What is it for?'
'The Galon Institute is a complex created by the government to develop a program for preserving viable specimens in the wake of a major catastrophe,' he answered.
I was astonished to think I might be imprisoned in a place built by the same organisation that had kidnapped the Beforetime Misfits from the first Reichler Clinic. But it was hard to believe an organisation that would ally itself secretly with weaponmachine makers would care enough about the aftermath of conflict and destruction to want to find ways to rescue survivors. Unless the govamen people had realised that they too would have to survive, whatever befell their world.
Or maybe the people behind the Galon Institute were different from those who had kidnapped the Beforetime Misfits. Garth always insisted the govamen organisation had been vast, with tentacles stretching into all of the main Beforetime powers; he had reasoned that since each of the five great powers differed radically in their ideology and methods, it stood to reason that the govamen in each might diverge as well. It was even possible that there had been a conflict of ideals and purposes between different govamens.
I had a sudden vision of Rushton scolding me for pondering the machinations of a long-dead Beforetime organisation while I was a helpless prisoner. He would tell me that I ought to be concentrating on how to free myself and continue my quest. He had always possessed the ability to concentrate single-mindedly on the needs of the moment, and in any case he believed that delving into the distant past was a waste of time. I did not agree. Yet it was true that there were times when one must concentrate on the present, and this was undoubtedly such a moment. I could not just get up and free myself, but I ought to prepare a plan, and essential to that plan was an understanding of my captors.
'How did you know where to find us?' I asked aloud.
'God identified your whereabouts when you entered the catchment area,' the Tumen said. 'Do you wish to converse with God?'
'No,' I snapped, irked by his mockery.
The Herders had always claimed that Lud spoke inside their minds, bidding them do this or that, but I did not believe they had obeyed anything save the voice of their own corrupt will. It might well be that the god of the Tumen was a less vicious and venal god than the Lud of the Herders, but I had no doubt that it would prove just as silent, were I to bespeak it.
I yawned and realised it was becoming harder and harder to think clearly. As I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness it struck me with the force of a slap that the last mouthful of water had left a bitter flavour in my mouth. And I knew that bitterness. It was the aftertaste left by a draught of sleep potion!
I forced myself to be calm, knowing my self-healing capacity would burn away the effects of any potion, but what if the Tumen administered another and another dose? Would I be able to wake myself from the sleep imposed by the cryopod if I was under the sway of a sleep potion, even if I had regained my strength? I tried desperately to weave a coercive net to entrap the potion flooding my senses, but to my horror, my mind would not obey me. Abandoning the effort I simply concentrated my whole will on resisting sleep. If the Tumen could be made to think the drugs had failed, he might cease giving them to me.
'Your delta waves show an unusual level of activity,' the Tumen observed, his mild voice sounding far away. 'This pattern of activity occurred during your initial rejection of cryopod deepsleep, and in the delta waves of the first anomaly. Do you feel pain or discomfort?'
I did not waste energy trying to answer him. It was taking every ounce of the strength I had to fight the sleep potion. Despairingly, I felt myself beginning to give way.
You must fight, a voice inside my mind urged. If you sleep now you will fail your quest.
Series: Obernewtyn Chronicles
Audience: Teenager / Young Adult
For Ages: 12 - 17 years old
For Grades: 7 - 12
Number Of Pages: 1120
Published: 12th November 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.0 x 15.2 x 5.9
Weight (kg): 23.4
Edition Number: 7