|Prized (Birthmarked) by Caragh M O'Brien|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: This second book in the Birthmarked trilogy has a strong feminist theme. In a matriarchal society, shouldn't women have full control of their own bodies? There's still too much romance for me, but this book definitely improves on the first.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: November 2011|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
The Cool Age - our age - is long gone. Few people made it and those that did now live in isolated communities. Gaia Stone, a young midwife, has just escaped from the Enclave, where genetic manipulation has both saved and condemned the select few. The rest live in poverty. Lost in the wasteland, Gaia and her baby sister Maya are rescued by Peter, an outranger from another settlement, Sylum.
In Sylum, the men outnumber the women by ten to one. And so the Matrarc, Sylum's ruthless community leader, takes Maya. If she's ever to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to a new society's rigid code. And worse still, Sylum has a terrible secret. A mysterious fever strikes down all those who try to leave. Can Gaia find out what is causing it? And how will she cope with her growing feelings for Peter, when Leon, the man she loved in the Enclave, is also taken prisoner?
It's easy for the middle book in a trilogy to lack the punch of the first and the suspense of the last. I can't tell you yet how it will compare to the final volume, but I thought Prized was actually better than Birthmarked. The plotting is better focussed and although the settings in both books are parochial and inward-looking, I felt Prized better expressed the stifling nature of rigid societies. There's still a bit too much romance for my personal taste, but I doubt this will be a problem for many readers.
What I really liked about this book was its exploration of women and the control they should - or shouldn't - exercise over their own bodies. One aspect of the conflict between Gaia and the Matrarc arises over the question of unwanted pregnancies. Gaia feels strongly that each woman should make her own choice and will prepare herb tinctures to induce a miscarriage. The Matrarc is implacably opposed to this, both because the settlement needs babies and because - she believes - the tension brought about by the unequal gender distribution in Sylum requires an authoritarian response. It's a crucial difference of opinion and an interesting one - albeit perhaps slightly less controversial this side of the pond than it is stateside, where abortion divides opinion in an equally crucial way.
So, Prized describes a second social response to the cataclysmic destruction of the Cool Age. Superficially, it's very different to the Enclave we saw in Birthmarked but underneath, the same rigid and authoritarian rules conspire to sacrifice personal happiness for the greater - but far from guaranteed - good. Gaia will have to make some difficult choices and I'm looking forward to seeing where they lead her. Roll on, book three!
You should read the first book in the series before you read Prized. I think the best love story in this very popular dystopian genre is in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I think you'd also enjoy Blood Red Road by Moira Young, a fabulous quest novel set in a future dystopian society and also featuring a strong female central character.
You can read more book reviews or buy Prized (Birthmarked) by Caragh M O'Brien at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Prized (Birthmarked) by Caragh M O'Brien at Amazon.com.
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