Prized

If you haven’t already read Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, do that before proceeding with this post.  Prized is the amazing sequel, and you definitely need to read these books in order!

I just finished reading a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I loved the first book, Birthmarked, and I had a feeling I would feel the same about the second, Prized. In many ways, I was not disappointed. Like Birthmarked, Prized is set in a dystopian society and follows Gaia, a strong female character. Two big pluses in my book. Prized also made me think about topics that any society tends to have issues with–abortion, oppression, equal rights, etc. Another plus.  The only problem I had with this book was the convoluted love story.  Gaia is torn in three different directions, and, while this does add some tension to the book, I felt it took away from the strength of Gaia’s character.  I also wasn’t crazy about how she knuckled under when things got rough.  (She later redeemed herself, but it still bothered me that she kowtowed in the first place.)  Would I have done things differently in Gaia’s position?  Probably not, as I am a wuss of the highest order.  (Honestly, I would have given in much faster.)  The question is:  would Gaia have done things differently had she known what the outcome would be?

After fleeing into the wastelands with her baby sister, Gaia is certain that death is imminent for both of them.  When nearly all hope is lost, salvation appears in the form of a rider from Sylum, the society that was once ruled by Gaia’s grandmother.  When Gaia arrives in Sylum, however, she fears that she’s escaped one corrupt society only to become part of another.  Sylum is ruled by women–who are largely outnumbered by men–and child-bearing is the most important thing in this world.  Women who cannot or choose not to have children are considered second-class citizens.  (Doesn’t sound too different from our society, does it?)  Men have virtually no rights at all, and kissing a woman out of wedlock is enough to have a man convicted of attempted rape…whether the woman wanted the kiss or not.

After Gaia’s sister is taken from her, and someone from her past is imprisoned without cause, Gaia resists the new rules placed upon her.  Eventually, however, she comes to believe that she must submit to the Matrarc, the ruler of Sylum, if she has any hope of seeing her sister or having anything resembling a happy life.  And for a while, Gaia thinks she could be happy in Sylum.  Two very handsome brothers are vying for her attention, she’s a highly valued midwife once again, and, whereas she was shunned in the Enclave, she’s prized in Sylum.  It’s a new and heady feeling for Gaia, one she’s not sure she wants to give up…

…until Leon, the boy who helped her escape the Enclave, makes it clear that he misses the old Gaia, the one who fought like a woman possessed for what she believed in.  He wonders where that Gaia has gone, and, after a while, Gaia wonders the same thing.  How could she possibly so concerned with her own happiness at the expense of those around her?  She sees what’s going on in Sylum, even when those in power would turn a blind eye.  But what could she possibly do to turn things around?  Is she willing to sacrifice relationships, both old and new, for the sake of justice?  Will it be enough?  Read Prized, the captivating sequel to Caragh M. O’Brien’s Birthmarked, to find out!

Prized is a fairly intense read, and, like I said before, it definitely makes you think.  It made me examine my own views on reproductive rights, gender equality, environmental impact on human growth and development, criminal justice, and what gives one group the right to impose laws on another.  Prized is a very timely book that I think will raise some discussions about issues that are facing us today.

Birthmarked and Prized are, you guessed it, part of a trilogy.  The third book, Promised is due out in the Fall of 2012.  Personally, I can hardly wait to see where Gaia’s story is going, especially considering the way it ended in Prized.  I have a feeling things are going to get a lot more complicated. 

If you’d like more information about this trilogy and author Caragh M. O’Brien, visit http://www.caraghobrien.com/.  Enjoy.

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