Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien
Posted by Ames
IN THE ENCLAVE, YOUR SCARS SET YOU APART, and the newly born will change the future.
In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother’s footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be “advanced” into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.
A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.
Birthmarked (Birthmarked #1) by Caragh M. O’Brien
I clearly watch too many sci-fi TV shows. Reading Birthmarked was like watching an amalgamation of specific episodes of those shows play out on paper. In black and white, not full and vivid HD colour because very little of it felt new and fresh, shocking and memorable. One scene and one scene only when Gaia rescues and revives the unborn baby of an executed couple (for mostly unintentional incest), is a time where I could say this book made an impression on me.
Don’t get me wrong, the world described within these pages is very detailed, I liked the reproductive rights theme vs. the incest dilemma, and I know the codes would’ve required time and research to create, I appreciate that but it didn’t inspire strong and lasting emotions in me or give me something wholly captivating and original to hold up and say to others “You must read this. It’s brilliant because…”
I couldn’t connect to Gaia. She was a brave, motherly figure much like her mythological namesake but it was difficult to feel her pain when her parents were taken away because we didn’t know them or the state of their relationship. Later on, we saw them in her memories but by then it was too little, too late. The characters in general didn’t appear to have distinctive personalities, instead they were classified by two characteristics: the brave and the submissive sheep. They could be in either camp, switch between the two or somehow straddle the fence. That’s it, that’s all there is to them. One exception is Myrna -my favourite character, an imprisoned doctor, locked up for doing her job but unfortunately we don’t spend too much time with her.
Supposedly uneducated in almost every way bar midwifery, Gaia was surprisingly intelligent enough to solve a code in hours that top scholars couldn’t crack in weeks. I’m not buying that. Neither am I convinced of her developing romance with her jailer. It’s very thin and I’m surprised Leon took to her so easily, risking his life for her when they’ve only had less than a handful of conversations.
Also, all that running for their lives with a newborn baby in her arms -tricky. I kept expecting it to either cry non-stop or for Gaia to look down and find it dead from suffocation because she was clutching it too tightly in the rush.
I didn’t hate Birthmarked, the world-building is good and the lesson “the grass is not always greener on the other side” is a classic but I do question the ‘baby quota’. It’s tough for me to imagine many women, or men for that matter, would give up their children without a fight no matter what the cost. The bond is too strong. I’m also surprised so many are willing to bear children knowing the risk of losing them. There should be good trade in birth control methods.
Perhaps if the characters were more developed and the book was written in first person I would feel more involved and connected to the action. I’m curious about what life has in store for Gaia next but having read the synopsis and a couple of reviews of Prized I’m not overly enthusiastic about finding out.