Friday, September 16, 2011

Prized by Caragh O'Brien (Birthmarked book 2)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read Birthmarked, Stop! I don’t want to ruin the story for you.

A couple of weeks have passed since the climatic ending of Birthmarked. Gaia Stone and her newborn sister, Maya, are traveling to the dead forest in search her grandmother, Dani Orien. With both of her parents dead, her brother missing and Gaia herself a wanted girl. She flees the Enclave and Leon in hopes of securing her freedom. But when the formula for Maya runs out and it looks like she won’t live, Gaia is found by a man and he takes the two by horseback to his village. At Sylum, Gaia meets the Matrarc. A wet nurse is found for Maya and the Matrarc informs Gaia that her grandmother has been dead for ten years and she is her replacement. Maya will remain in the village if she lives but Gaia has a choice to make. Visitors can only remain in the village for two days before becoming tied to it. If anyone tries to leave after that time, they become sick and die.

Gaia learns that Sylum is ruled by the women. Their population is steadily dwindling since only one in ten babies born is female. Since she knowingly risked her sister’s life, Gaia is imprisoned. During the night, she thinks she hears Maya crying. Breaking the window slats keeping her prisoner in the lodge, Gaia walks around the village searching for her sister; she soon realizes that the cries are that of a woman in labor. She goes in the cabin and meets Dinah and Josephine. Gaia helps Josephine deliver her daughter and Dinah gives her the scoop on village life. Both Dinah and Josephine are outcasts or libbies since they refuse to marry and have the requisite ten children to repopulate the village. They tell Gaia as a woman and a midwife, she could become influential figure in the village if she chose to stay.

Gaia discovers the window has been fixed and she has no choice but to go to the neighboring lodge for assistance. Norris lets her in and tells Gaia that the Matrarc is waiting for her. He gives her a tea tray and tells her where to go. The Matrarc has Gaia sit down and asks where she has been. She is pleased to learn that Gaia is a midwife and that it changes things. The Matrarc asks to feel/study her face since she is blind. Gaia is uncomfortable due to her scar but eventually relents. The Matrarc can tell she is full of loss not only for her parents but a boyfriend she left behind. In the end, she offers Gaia a deal, stay and be the village midwife and go to school. She can see her sister on occasion but she will have a mother who can care for her. Or she still has time to leave Sylum behind. She lets Gaia know that there are a few rules to life in the village. Men cannot touch women and women speak first. Gaia is surprised but the Matrarc explains with such a disparity between the number of men and women, a woman can be free to choose who she wishes to marry. Finally she lets Gaia know that “any tender touch, any kiss, is strictly illegal until you choose the man you want to marry.”

Will Gaia decide to stay in Sylum? What happens when she butts heads with the Matrarc over personal choice? Why is the male to female ratio in the village so disproportional? And when Leon comes looking for Gaia, what does the Matrarc do?

Join Gaia on her journey of self discovery. Her story will be concluded in Promised due out in 2012.

Visit Caragh O’Brien’s website.

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