Another winner! I loved BIRTHMARKED and loved this one just as much. Finished both books ina day!!
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 Divergence, Wither, Brave New World, Hunger Games and Matched for those who want more dystopia reads.
My Review ~ I will try not to spoil much here:
This story starts out where Birthmarked leaves off, after Gaia has escaped the wall of the Enclave with her baby sister Maya, and has set off to find her grandmother's settlement in the wasteland. When she finally comes across a matriarchal community called Sylum, where women are far more scarce than men.
Because the ruler of these people in Sylum has saved both her and her sister's life, she is indebted to them. They respect and honor her for being female, and value her skills as a midwife. In many ways they treat her well, and better than she had been treated both on the outside and inside of the walls of the Enclave. But, because of Gaia's unwillingness to respect and value all of the customs and laws of Sylum, she is also harshly punished at times. Gaia suffers from what I will call a strange version of Stockholm Syndrome where she has to fight her internal struggle to both value and help this new community to thrive, while also wanting to rebel against it's laws and government.
I'll blame it on her inner confusion, but I found that at at times she would make sacrifices for one cause or another (even when she was not sure if it was the right thing to do) that had potentially catastrophic consequences. Other times where it seemed obvious what she should do to help someone that needed her, she would do nothing and leave someone she was really indebted to, without her help. I really didn't agree with a lot of her decisions in this book. This is something that really bothered me when I was reading this book. But I understand that not every character in every story is going to do what I want them to do. While I'm talking about things that I personally don't like, I will also say that I get queasy with the talk of the pregnancy exams and uterus issues, and blood and things of the like. This was in the first book and is here again because of course Gaia is a midwife. I know it's necessary but it makes me queasy! There I've said it.
On to brighter things! Given the male-to-female ration here, Gaia has no shortage for love interests. And because the love triangle is a very common theme in many stories, Gaia is unique in having more than just two options to choose from!
I really enjoyed Birthmarked and I also really enjoyed the story told in Prized as well (aside from my already mentioned issues) I look forward to continuing this series and seeing where it goes. Because this story and even the culture and setting of Prized was so different from Birthmarked, I would really like to see the two 'worlds' of the two books collide and see how that plays out. I am hoping that is where book number three will be headed.