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, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole? (From Goodreads.com)
A few months ago I read Caragh O’Brien’s first book in the Birthmarked series and I absolutely loved it. The writing style was right up my street and everything I want in a dystopia: poetically beautiful prose, a strong brave lead character and most importantly a believable world (to quote myself). So when I noticed Prized, second book in the series available on Netgalley, it wasn’t long before it made it’s way to my kindle.
Prized picks off pretty much exactly where Birthmarked left off with Gaia struggling for survival after fleeing the Enclave. On the brink of death she’s rescued and taken to Sylam, a small colony of people with a very different way of living and strict moral order, which Gaia finds difficult to accept. Only this time, there’s no escape.
Once again O’Brien creates a desolate and believable world, where climate change and a dwindling population has created a new society with new rules. I thought the idea that women rule was ingenious and at first was ‘yay! This will be great’ I mean, how many times have we females thought the world would be better if we were in charge? :P But the saying absolute power corrupts absolutely holds true and The Sylum society has an Orwellian feel. It’s both fascinating and terrifying all at once.
What I really like about O’Brien’s series is the many themes it throws up, not just political but environmental and genetic, and without being heavy or complicated really encourages the reader to think. These are issues, which are completely conceivable, I can understand and see how they’re created. Despite some pretty heavy themes though, I always find the writing absorbing and easy and like Birthmarked I flew through Prized in a couple of sittings.
Gaia again was a character who appealed to me and gained my respect. I love her fierce loyalty and sense of what’s right. Sometimes I felt she acted selfishly in her quest for justice and allowed others to be sacrificed but then I guess this is what makes her a great leader. I was fascinated by Sylum’s hierarchy, in particular the Matrarc, who is a complex and intriguing character. One thing I didn’t enjoy so much was the introduction of a love triangle, or even square and Gaia’s indecision and recklessness where it was concerned. I love Gaia and Leon together, and enjoyed the subtle chemistry in Birthmarked, I just felt this book didn’t really need the added complications, it has enough to carry it without.
Not everyone is going to love this series: if you like your dystopia desolate and thought provoking and don’t mind a lack of obvious action then I would recommend you look it up. Personally it’s exactly what I want, and despite a couple of complaints with the unnecessary romance, I wasn’t disappointed with Prized. The book finishes in such a way I can’t wait to find out what happens next and will certainly be looking out for another book in this series (as yet unnamed but scheduled for Autumn 2012)
Published by Macmillan Childrens Book (US) 8th Nov 2011/ Simon & Schuster (UK) 11 Nov 2011
My copy was an ebook proof courtesy of Netgalley