Book Review: The Birthmarked Trilogy | Prized

         I haven't had such a visceral reaction to a book in such a long time, I fell like I just awoke from a nine-year sleep. Today we're talking about the sequel from The Birthmarked Trilogy;

In case you're not familiar with the premise:

        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 and the oppressive rules of Matrarc Olivia. Meanwhile, two brothers claim her attention as they attempt to understand the environmental trap that keeps the people of Sylum captive, and suddenly Gaia must contend with the exciting, uncomfortable, and altogether new feeling of being desired.

           But when someone from her past shows up, Gaia discovers that survival alone is not enough and that justice requires sacrifice.

          Being awoken from nine years is quite a feat that I wasn't expecting to undergo especially with Prized but I'm sure glad I did. I had gotten so excited about YA with Birthmarked that having another element of my adolescence confronted so close to the last book was a lot to handle. This certainly proved true with the novel's main conflict, the Matrarc controlling Gaia. Thinking back to this story months later (yeah, I know, I dropped the ball on writing this review big time) I still do not like the Matrarc.
            I don't get her. On a personal level she reminded me of my own abuser, what with the gaslighting and the need to have every whim of Gaia be under her control, I understood the Matrarc as an antagonist. But then in the overall story, (this novel and Promised) I don't get how the Matrarc did anything but add more trauma to a young woman who didn't need any more trauma. This isn't to say the Matrarc was a bad villain, on the contrary, she was hyper-realistic.
Birthmarked by such-torturous-things on Tumblr
          Prized unlocked all the old horrible feelings my own abuser had conjured up when I was a child. I could feel every ounce of Gaia's confliction over what to do with Peony's abortion, when to lie and when not to, if she should just spill the beans to set Leon free. All of that was realistic and awful, and made for a great story. But as far as I'm concerned the Matrarc was just ugly and then she dies. She doesn't have to live with how she's treated people, she just inflicts more trauma on Gaia and her family. A+ to the consistency of this villain!
          Now let's talk about that love square or what I like to call, a love tri-cycle. You see, as far as I saw it while reading, we have our main pair the big wheels (Gaia x Leon), then we have the steady right-side little wheel that's more attached to the big wheel (Gaia x Peter), and then we have the wobbly left-side little wheel that's not really doing anything and is more there for show (Gaia x Will). All three relationships had fun interactions but I knew to rely on the big wheels if I wanted any romantic feelings. Though I could see where if Leon never showed up Gaia and Peter could've been a thing, but alas, you can't keep that degenerate Leon down!
            I did love how in true YA trilogy fashion we did have Gaia and Leon have their romantic falling out and subsequent reuniting. In Prized it didn't feel forced considering where each of them were coming from and who they were as people. Leon, always the fighter, having just been tortured on orders of his own father, escaped through the wastelands, finds Sylum, and then gets thrown in prison, and then is kept there because Gaia won't spill the beans, makes sense that he's more than a little miffed at her when he gets out. And on Gaia's end, she also fled through the wastelands but with her newborn sister Maya, gets taken into Sylum where everybody and their cousin is gassed up, then gets caught up in Sylum's strange and overbearing politics, and is manipulated into a controlling, gaslighting, awful mess, that she starts getting gassed up as well makes more than enough sense that she doesn't know what or who she is anymore.
“Be good, Gaia.”
“Be good yourself, Captain. If you know how.”
 by such-torturous-things on Tumblr
            Their conflict and its resolution was the highlight of Prized for me. I am a proud sucker of romance in any novel, so the chapter Cinnamon had me ascending to the high heavens and back again! What I also enjoyed about this novel was that even though this world has teenagers acting in a more adult role, they still act like indecisive teenagers, especially when it comes to their relationships with others. Sometimes in novels, teen characters don't act like teens but like twenty, thirty, or forty-year-olds. Which would be fine for maybe one character but if all your teen characters are acting like their thirty-five and with a mortgage to pay, why not just make them thirty-five with a mortgage to pay? So hat's off to O'Brien for keeping Leon and Gaia teenagers.
          The world building was beautiful in this novel and setting up Sylum. Seeing how they think they have to survive given their gassed up predicament (of which they know nothing about) and how they've created this suppressive society in the face of this predicament was fun getting to understand, if not frustration. The treatment of people based on their reproduction ability and whether that made them a true citizen or not made me sick to my stomach.
          In conclusion;
          I'm excited to see how O'Brien concludes this trilogy and also,


Prized (Birthmarked, #2)Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

        If you don't think this book put me through the WORKS! This book made me feel again. And that feeling was pure and utter rage. Hear me out, I am really enjoying the Birthmarked Trilogy, Gaia and Leon are becoming personal literary favorites of mine, that being said...


            There were parts in this story that got to me on a fundamental level that I thought I had gotten over personally until they were brought up again in Prized. For instance, the main conflict between the Matrarc and Gaia was too close to home for me. As I said, this book had me feeeellling again. The Matrarc is so oppressive and controlling and her tactics in getting what she wanted mirrored and mimicked my past abusers to the 't'. Prized unlocked all those horrible feelings from my past and just let them evade my entire being and sent me spiraling to some really dark personal places that I wasn't expecting to go.
            For the majority of the book I was hoping for the Matrac to get hers and by the time she did I was already completely numb again so?? I don't know. I haven't had a book make me relive all those terrible memories again and it's making my brain feel otherworldly? I'm here, but I'm not. I've had those feelings from watching shows before but that felt less personal. With books it's always a more intimate relationship since you're going on the journey with these characters and are feeling what they're feeling and in this instance, I knew exactly what Gaia was feeling, and how she resorted to backing down and eventually shutting down as well.
             All that depressingness being said, I deeply enjoyed the genetic talk and the overall mystery of why everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid in Sylum. Also, that love square was something else but also it felt more like a love-tricycle. You got the two main wheels (Gaia & Leon) than the one working baby wheel (Peter), and the wobbly-not-really-there-just-for-show wheel (Will). My little heart is more or less set on Leon and Gaia making it all the way. (If you don't think I read and re-read Cinnamon like twenty times than you don't know me at all.) I'll be very surprised if the love tricycle makes an appearance in the next book, is all I'm saying since the two main wheels seem to be doing pretty well on their own.

            View all my reviews

            Until Next Time,


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