First of a post-nuclear science-fiction series, and first US outing for this Australian children’s writer. Years after the nuclear-holocaust Great White, the repressive, all-powerful Council rules with the help of priestly Herders. Dissenters are condemned and burned; mutant Misfits are sent to the eponymous forbidding mountain fastness. Orphan Elspeth Gordie—her parents were burned—can hear people’s thoughts and communicate telepathically with animals. She manages to conceal her deeper abilities from Obernewtyn’s visiting Madam Vega, though she’s still ordered across the Blacklands to attend the suitably gothic edifice, where she makes friends with Matthew, another telepath, and blind Dameon the empath. In turn, Rushton, the green-eyed overseer whose status and motives are unclear, notices Elspeth. Beautiful Cameo has been “treated,” her mind filled with hypnotic blocks. Dr. Seraphim, Elspeth learns, thinks demons lurk in Misfit minds and uses hypnosis to combat them, while Vega and the vicious Alexi seek a telepath to help locate powerful machines hidden since the Beforetime. Terrified, Elspeth feigns feeblemindedness, so Vega and Alexi focus on Cameo—and destroy her mind. The Council, meanwhile, has sent men to apprehend Elspeth. Somehow she must escape, braving the Blacklands, winter snows, and Obernewtyn’s insensate, bloodthirsty guardian wolves. For some reason, Rushton’s willing to help. Pedestrian and one-dimensional: Carmody’s not the first to stumble attempting the transition to an adult audience.