Monday, October 17, 2011

"Prized" by Caragh M. O'Brien

I reviewed Caragh M. O'Brien's debut "Birthmarked" last year, and the sequel is coming out Nov. 8. There will be spoilers for Birthmarked in here, so for those of you who haven't read it, I'll say now that I really enjoyed "Prized."

Back cover copy- "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?"

This book was all about control. Do individuals get to make their own choices or should society be able to dictate partners and the number of children a woman should bear? Does a genetic problem that steadily decreases the number of girls born give society the right to have near-total control over reproduction? Does the need for babies obviate the right (a right according to Gaia's mind, at least) of women to have abortions? And how much attraction doth love make?

Gaia is used to being scorned because of her burns and her outsider status, and that situation is totally flipped in Prized. As a midwife, she's high-status and has two very eligible brothers trying to out-do each other to win her affections, but Gaia can't forget Leon and his brave sacrifice to save her. Or can she? After all, it's not likely that she'll ever see him again.

Prized is well-written and well thought out. I had a few issues-like how are the women in control when there are so few of them? They have archers, but the boys get really rowdy sometimes and there are so many or them in comparison. And if the women are in control, then why is a girl chosen as a prize by the men in their monthly "32 games?" I usually get bored by descriptions of sports in books, (as in real life!) but this game was original and important to the story, so I actually enjoyed it.

Anyway, the society was really interesting and I loved all of the little touches- word usage like matriarch turned into Matrarc, Asylum becoming Sylum and many others. Those kind of details give such a great sense of time passing for a culture and make a story so much richer. Lots of herb-lore and some mid-wifery made it different than other dystopians out there.

Content- very little sexuality- just a few kisses, but be aware that abortion is major issue. I wouldn't say that it stopped me from enjoying the book, because it is carefully treated, with Gaia being very thoughtful about if she should give herbs to a girl that would cause her to miscarry. There's a lot of emphasis placed on the unfairness of society's rules, namely that if the girl chooses to keep the baby, she'll lose all status and bad things will happen to the father, who in the story is a serial jerk, besides. I'll admit that, due to my own very strong feelings against abortion, this was off-putting. I think it would be nearly impossible to place enough emphasis on the long-term consequences of abortion in a novel that only takes place over the course of a few months. It is an action that cannot be undone and cannot be forgotten.

Please forgive me for moralizing a bit, but I can't review this book and let the topic pass by without throwing my 2 cents in. Life is sacred, even if it's not planned or scary or everyone will be disappointed in you. I have too many other friends that are praying and searching for children to adopt to not see that as the best possible outcome in an unplanned pregnancy. Adoption is about love. Abortion is about fear.

You're more than welcome to disagree, but I hope that anybody so inclined will be civil. Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for giving me the opportunity to preivew this book. Thanks and happy reading!

PS- the interview with David Farland *should* happen on Oct. 28th and he will check in at some point to answer questions. I'll post the interview at 9am EST, so hurry and leave your questions so Dave will see them when he stops in.

Dave is a master of targeted marketing and what elements to include to intrigue what ages. Dave is also self-published, traditionally published, and has started his own publishing company, which has the goal of standing out of the crowd by providing extra content like professional video, art, etc.

Dave has also been the head contest judge for "Writers of the Future" contest for years and a writing teacher at Brigham Young University. Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson and Steohenie Meyer have all been his students. Seriously, he's an incredible resource, so ask away. Thanks!