Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopia/Science Fiction
Size: 368 pages
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Release Date: November 8th, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 2nd book in the Birthmarked trilogy
Source: eGalley through NetGalley.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got an eGalley of this book through NetGalley(dot)com. This is the second book in the Prized trilogy, the third book entitled Promised is due out later in 2012. There is also a short story called Tortured that will be released in early Dec 2011 that bridges the time between Birthmarked and Prized. I enjoyed this book overall, it was very engaging and Gaia has to face a hard situation that is both the same and opposite of the one she faced in Birthmarked.
Gaia has traveled the wasteland with her baby sister Maya only to be captured by the people of Sylum. Sylum is a place where the men vastly out number the women but a woman rule’s the city. For a man to even touch or kiss a woman is taboo and considered rape. Sylum is in desperate need of a midwife though, so they are greatful for Gaia. But when Gaia fails to comply with the strict rules of Sylum her sister is taken away and she is forced into seclusion. Now Gaia will find herself not only in a power struggle with the powerful woman ruler of asylum, but with her heart torn between multiple the multiple men who woo her.
The first part of this book was an incredibly engaging and intense story. I just got completely sucked into the story. The Sylum society is interesting in a number of ways. First of all the society is matriarcal which is interesting considering the shortage of women in Sylum. Secondly anyone who tries to leave Sylum after they go through the acclimation sickness dies; so once Gaia decides to stay there she is trapped. Thirdly when they find out why the society is so short on women it is incredibly interesting. Since most of these issues were addressed in the first half of the story I was absolutely intrigued and engaged for the first part of the book, especially by some of the genetic and scientific implications about what was going on in Sylum.
The social codes in Sylum are very interesting, basically topsy turvy of how old Victorian codes were for women. It was interesting that the rules were so strict and that for the most part they were followed. I did find it a bit unrealistic that the men would be mostly content with the way society was ruled; the majority of the men were so docile about it even though they were occasional the victims of abuse. I was surprised that it took Leon pointing these things out to the other men to rile them against the strict matriarchal rule.
Gaia wasn’t my favorite character in the first book and she continues to be a weak point for me in this book as well. I felt like she made some pretty poor decisions early on in the book that drew out her confrontation with the leader of Sylum far longer than it needed to be drawn out. In this book she is in a sort of love square; she even jokes about how silly it is to be in a love square. She finds herself torn between loving two men who are brothers and loving Leon when he shows up searching for her. I thought that way too much time was given to Gaia angsting about her choice in men in the latter part of the book. I mean seriously, Leon is pretty much the only one for Gaia and that is apparent pretty quickly…so why spend all this time having Gaia angst about it?
I enjoyed some of the side characters a bit more. I have to say though that characterization wasn’t the strong point of this book; it was the world that was built and the society that Gaia was forced to live in that really propelled the story forward. Also the fact that Sylum is slowly dying from a lack of females really engages the reader; you are constantly wondering what will become of this village.
Overall I was absolutely enraptured with the world and the society depicted in Sylum so I really enjoyed the first portion of the book. I still have some problems with Gaia as a character though; she is just too passive aggressive for me…even more so in this book than the last book. I also didn’t enjoy how much time was spent listening to Gaia angst about her trio of boys. I am still very curious to see how things will continue on in the third book, Promised, so I will definitely read it. I just hope the guy problems that Gaia has/had are settled. I recommend this book to people who love dystopian reads. I would also recommend Divergent, Wither, Brave New World, The Hunger Games and Matched for those who want more dystopia reads.