Friday, January 27, 2012

[Review] Prized (#2) by Caragh O'Brien

Title: Prized {goodreads}
Series: #2 in a trilogy [My review for Birthmarked]
Authors: Caragh O'Brien
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 10/11/2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Source: For review (thanks to publisher!)
Precautions: Violence | Sexual Content Profanity
Pages: 368
My Rating:
Fantabulously awesome Book!!!

Fleeing from the corrupt society of the Enclave, Gaia Stone heads into the harsh environment of the wasteland with her baby sister, Maya. They survive only to be captured by Peter, a ranger from Sylum, a strange village which seems to have as many laws as the Enclave. And when the ruthless village leader takes Maya, Gaia is forced to stay and submit to the strict social code, or risk losing her sister forever.

Then Gaia discovers that Sylum has a secret; a deadly fever strikes down anyone who tries to leave, holding the villagers prisoner. Desperate to escape with Maya, Gaia is determined to uncover the truth about the sickness, whatever it takes. But when Leon is captured too, she is faced with another impossible choice: the boy who won her heart in the Enclave, or Peter, for whom she can't deny her growing feelings.

If Gaia is going to survive in this new world she needs to learn to trust her instincts, and her heart . . .
My thoughts: 

Or you just want to read this review.

~ Final thoughts ~

PRIZED introduces readers to an alternative dystopian society where women rule. The stakes are made even higher as Gaia's baby sister is taken away from her. Gaia's decisions may not always be right, but the extraordinary character development she undergoes more than makes up for it. The love square exemplifies the troubles in a society where such a male-female ratio and female ruling exist, while also being entertaining and surprisingly fresh. Readers will relish in this delicious and readable sequel to BIRTHMARKED.

Caragh O'Brien manages to completely blow me away again, with the second book in this dystopian YA series. I was actually worried that this book wouldn't live up to the first book, 'Birthmarked' - which I still have not stopped raving about - but really those anxious thoughts were in vain. Because 'Prized' was everything I could have wanted and more.


'Prized' picks up shortly where 'Birthmarked' ends. Gaia has just escaped the Enclave - baby sister Maya in tow - and is now fighting her way through the Wastelands in hopes of finding the place her Grandma supposedly mapped out for her. As death approaches both girls, outrider Chardos Peter rescues them and leads them to Sylum. A community overpopulated with males and where females (mlasses and mladies) dominate. As far as the Matrarc (the leader) is concerned, "Gaia's sister" Maya is dead, and Maya is taken away from Gaia to live with able-bodied carers who will not endanger the baby's life.

Since the Sylum is in a serious deficit of mlasses and there are about 9 men to every woman, in this society touching is taken extremely seriously. So when Gaia gets close to both the Chardos boys, Peter and Will, things get even more complicated when she discovers that Leon is alive and has made it to Sylum. As a prisoner. Gaia wasn't sure if she wanted to continue midwifery after her last failed birth (her mum's), but natural instinct led her back to what she'd always known, and instantly she's indispensible. Until she gets in trouble and the Matrarc holds Leon captive until she caves in to the Sylum's outrageous customs.

In Prized, you can expect Gaia to struggle so much with her beliefs, against an unstoppable power that she finds both unflappable and disconcerting. Some of her decisions lead to much irritating-to-read strife, but that's how people learn.


In 'Prized' Gaia is in yet another dystopic society, Sylum. At the beginning it seems like such a great place - until Gaia begins to discover some odd things about it all. Firstly, there's the whole no-touching policy that's linked to the male-female ratio. How exactly did the community slowly dwindle down in female numbers? Stranger still, why do people get unbearably sick when they first arrive to Sylum, and why do people who try to escape die? Every mystery that Gaia and her friends uncovers bends the mind much in the same way as the mysteries in 'Birthmarked' did. I loved speculating alongside the characters.

There is less action in 'Prized', more internal thinking and dialogue. Not a bad thing, if you were to ask me. I loved finding out more about the society, about Gaia and her values, how her past memories have affected her, who the Chardos boys are, what the cracks in this society were, etc. Basically, I found it really hard to put this book down. Caragh paces this book so well that I barely even saw the pages flick by!


'Prized' is Caragh O'Brien's sophomore title, and if I do say so myself her writing has improved greatly since her debut. This is evident in the fact that I was still glued to the pages despite the decrease in action comparative to her debut title. That said, if you loved the writing in 'Birthmarked' you'll find yourself well at ease in 'Prized'.

The book is sprinkled with details on the environment that allowed me to easily picture each scene. There is something minimal yet sufficient about Caragh's writing style that I just adore. I would not say that the writing quality is the best component of this book, but it's not clunky, it doesn't distract, it's not long-winded and boring. It's very on par with good YA novel writing styles. What I love about these books is that they're set in a future where development has gone backwards and O'Brien doesn't let us forget that.


I loved Gaia so very much in 'Birthmarked'. I was a bit worried when I read reviews in which readers were disappointed in the decisions Gaia made and how she's not as strong-willed or revolutionary as she was before. But. She is. She just loses her way. There is nothing better than characters you love that disappoint you but REDEEM themselves, and boy, does Gaia redeem herself. She's still the kickass heroine I know and love!

I actually love most of the characters in this book, while I have conflicting feelings about a few (Olivia and Roxanne, for instance). Leon returns! And I still love him, because despite his attitude for half of the book it's so evident that his love for Gaia is too strong for words. Peter and Will almost give Leon a run for his money though, but I think it was because of what Leon and Gaia went through in 'Birthmarked' that I always rooted for them to work it out.

Norris, the Lodge cook, is great. I held a soft spot for him from the very first time we meet him. There's so many things endearing about him, despite the brute quality he puts on. The bond he forms with Gaia is incomparible - he's like a father to her, though I'm not sure she ever realised it.

Dinah and the Libbies. And the expools and the men in general. I just love the power and energy they bring to the end of the book. They really teach Gaia so much about what she believes in, and they help Gaia remember that.


Maybe no one agrees with me on this one (I haven't checked), but Caragh made a love SQUARE work! I don't know, I found Gaia's interactions with each guy so very interesting and entertaining to read. They each have their sweet and sour spots. I was pleased with how Caragh dealt with it all. The romances were actually kind of a "side-effect" to the society: since there are more men than women in Sylum, marriage and relationships are very competitive, which is reflected in Gaia's case with the three guys.

THE ENDING: It was really satisfying for me. Everything gets tied up, meaning there is no cliffhanger! No spoilers from me. There is a lead-up for the next book though. We will know where the next book will start off, and from then on, who knows?

PRECAUTIONS NOTES: There is a lot more childbirth in this book. Descriptive. Yes, hm, quite. Also some implied violence, but nothing TOO bad. Nothing too descriptive, I should say. No swearing, no need to worry about that. All around, nothing too obscene.


First lines

"She grabbed the hilt of her knife and scrambled backward into the darkness, holding the baby close in her other arm. Beyond the fire, the wasteland was still, as if the wind and even the stones had frozen in the night to listen, and then she heard it again, a faint chink, like a football in pebbles. Someone or something was out there watching her."


"'You can't swim, you like to argue, and now you're afraid of a little fish poop?' He laughed again. 'Remind me why I came along with you.'" (pp. 194-195)


* cheapest Australian e-store price



All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.


Other PRIZED reviews
Tina Reviews: 4 stars {link}
In the Good Books: 4 stars {link}
Idle Shadows of a Literary Life: 5 stars {link}
Squeaky Books: 5 stars flowers ;) {link}

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: ---

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