Gaia Stone is a midwife outside the walled Enclave, and she and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three babies per month to its rulers. When Gaia’s mother and father are taken away to be questioned about their written baby records and subsequently thrown in prison, Gaia begins to question her loyalty to her brutal oppressor. Soon, she too is captured and forced to solve her parents’ mysterious baby code.
From the very first chapter, the fascinating world building, foreboding atmosphere and characters hooked me and had me wondering what the heck was going on (in a good way!). BIRTHMARKED is set far in the future, north of “unlake” Superior, and the Enclave seems to be the only settlement in a region dominated by a scorched, post-apocalyptic landscape. Those who live outside the wall depend on the Enclave for their livelihood and in return, the Enclave takes their healthiest children and brings them up inside. Both Gaia’s older brothers were taken, but she was not, due to a burn on her face she suffered before her first birthday.
While I was very entertained by the narrative – really there’s never a dull moment – I have to admit that I found the ultimate explanation of the Enclave’s “sinister” deeds to be rather tame. No doubt the man in charge is ruthless (and tends towards overreaction), but I never got the feeling that his iron fist was all that solid, and I kept wondering why the populace didn’t just kick his butt to the curb already. I also didn’t get what was sooooo special about the baby code that Gaia’s parents felt the need to protect it with their lives, unless as some sort of symbolic gesture of rebellion. Also? Sgt. Grey’s “dark secret” was so lifted from a soap opera I had to chuckle, although I guess it did fit very well with the particular strain of paranoia the culture was rife with.
BIRTHMARKED is due March 30th in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.
My Rating - 3 Zombie Chickens: Well Worth Reading