Caragh O’brien is an American writer who has studied literature and creative writing. She currently teaches at a high school in Connecticut and has published many romance novels for adults. Birthmarked, the first book in the Birthmarked trilogy, is her first young adult novel. The second book in the series, Prized, is due for release on 8th November 2011, and the third book, Promised, is due out in 2012.
A big thank you to Caroline Payne at Simon & Schuster Australia for sending this book to me for review.
Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code and the oppressive rules of Matrarc Olivia.
Meanwhile, two brothers claim her aid in attempting to spring the environmental trap that keeps the people of Sylum captive, and suddenly Gaia must contend with the exciting, uncomfortable, and altogether new feeling of being desirable.
When someone from Gaia’s past shows up, she discovers that survival alone is not enough, and that justice requires sacrifice.
In Prized, the author transplants the heroine Gaia into a new society which is completely different from the setting of the first book. Sylum has climate change survived by becoming a matriarchal society surviving on marshland north of the Enclave. A mysterious genetic defect has caused an imbalance in the number of males and females being born in Sylum, resulting in the men outnumbering the women 9:1. The matriarchal nature of the society means that 90% of the population does not get to vote. Sylum, quite frankly, scared me. The imbalance of the sexes has caused the citizens of Sylum to only allow children to be born to traditional, nuclear families, punish abortion by death, outlaw any form of physical contact between non-married couples and prize female babies above all else. This completely foreign world allows the author to examine some controversial issues about feminism, slavery and basic human rights.
The character development in the book is at first glance unsatisfying. After standing up to the Enclave and having a strong moral compass in Birthmarked, Gaia becomes a weak, submissive character in Prized. The interaction between Gaia and the brothers Peter and Will was cliche at best, with both acting as foils for Leon, the hero of the last book. The growth of Leon was also very confusing, with the darker side of his character, which was hinted at in Birthmarked, coming through strongly in this book. However, once I had finished the novel I felt I understood the motivations behind the characters and their growth.
There were three love interests in this novel, creating a ‘love square’. Normally the introduction of a second love interest in the story to test the love of the hero and heroine has always irked me, because the heroine it usually makes no sense. However, in this society where women are few and far between, it makes sense that Gaia, being a smart, strong woman, would have more than one suitor. The way she handles the men is immature and although Gaia is only sixteen and acts according to her age and experience, I found myself wanting to slap her at times because of her naivety.
A well realised dystopian novel which tackles some controversial issues in a very different setting, Prized is a great novel with plot twists that will keep readers hooked until the last page. Don’t miss the stunning sequel to Birthmarked!
About the book:
- Pub. Date: 10 November 2011
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
- Format: Paperback, 356 pages
- ISBN 13: 9780857074959 ISBN 10: 0857074954
- Categories: Science Fiction, Young Adult
- My review of Birthmarked (#1 of the Birthmarked trilogy)