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?
I really enjoyed this sequel to Birthmarked. Gaia face was scarred by her mother in order to protect her from the Enclave. While living there no one except Leon was interested in her. But at Sylum, where there are more men than women, she finds a couple men are interested. Also she brings a must needed skill to the people of Sylum. Gaia finds that this society is in fact dying. The author does a great job multi-layering the character in Prized. Gaia is flawed but also has an inner strength that was hinted at in Birthmarked and grows here. I really thought the revelation on why the people are dying in Sylum to be fascinating. Leon's character shows up in this book too and is just as complicated.
One big thing with sequels is how well the storyline continues without being held down with way too much backstory or not enough. O'Brien succeeds at this and more. I cheered with Gaia's successes and also felt for her when she stumbled. I also loved the added love interests too. Gaia is a strong heroine who struggles with not only her appearance but also with her heart. This story will continue and I can't wait to see what the future holds for both Gaia and Leon. There's also some surprising twists throughout.
The world building is intriguing and fascinating with a revelation that is surprising and believable.
What I love about this series is that O'Brien focuses on topics that are not often tackled in YA novels, like midwifery (which grosses me out, but it's still awesome that there are details) and genetics. Gaia, too, is pretty fantastic, because of her strength, not physically but mentally. Like me, she is a very stubborn woman and that makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Birthmarked had romance, but much less than can be found here. Now, the fact that Gaia has three men interested in her (two of them brothers) could be seen as a big negative for the book. Certainly, the love triangle (square?) plot can get old. However, I think it has been done fairly well. The reason is that it makes much more sense in the context of the story, since Sylum has so few women.
In the Enclave, only Leon ever expressed a romantic interest in Gaia. Most ignored her because of the burn scar on her face. In Sylum, that seems hardly to matter. I found the whole crazy society in Sylum endlessly fascinating. The women essentially have the pick of the men and have complete control. In fact, if a man so much as touches an unmarried man before they are engaged, he can go to prison, because otherwise the women of Sylum would be in serious danger, given the lack of available lady folk.
Even more interesting is the one exception to the women having all the power, which is the 32 Games, wherein the strongest young men play soccer. The begin with two teams of 16 and play until a goal is scored. The winning team divides up into two teams of 8, and so on until only one man remains. That man has his pick of the unmarried women, the Mlasses, to stay with him in the victor's cabin for a month. Supposedly, he's not allowed to get with her, but...come on.
Oh, how much I wish the final book in the trilogy could come out right now!
I was still pulling for Gaia throughout this book, and even though I could understand where she was coming from, I totally don't agree with some of her actions. Now, I can't sit here and say that I would've done any differently in her position, in fact, I probably wouldn't have had the bravery to do anything that she did.
Another thing that I wish could've been pulled off better is the love square. Yes. I said it. It's there. And I can see the appeal, and how it developed, I just wanted more depth. To me, there was always a clear choice for Gaia, and the rest was almost just plot movers.
And I know this sounds negative, but I really did enjoy this book, I like the conflict that it set up, I adored the new characters added into the story, and Gaia got a chance to learn more about herself by leading, by making mistakes, and by being thrown into a society where everything is not as clear cut as we want things to be. There are no easy answers, but situations that demand action. I am really eager for the next book and to find out what happens to the characters I care about.