Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

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

16 comments:

Yan said...

Erm. Not sure what to do expect from this anymore. Hated it, loved it, thought it was decent--I've heard it all. It seems as though the book could have been stronger :/

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

That seems like a bit of a let down if the secret wasn't worth keeping and the head guy wasn't so scary. It undermines reading the book. Glad you enjoyed it before it fell apart.

The Book Bug said...

Great review! I really want to read this. Also, the cover is so pretty. Cant wait!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I liked the few dystopian novels I have read, but I admit I'm not seasoned. What I am learning from your reviews is that many start out with great premises but few really deliver the goods. I am a newbie over hear at your place, so maybe you have done this recently, but have you ever posted a list of best of dystopia?

avisannschild said...

This sounds like such a great premise that I'm disappointed to hear that the ultimate explanation is rather tame. Sounds like a let-down.

Lenore said...

Well, maybe a bit of a letdown for someone as hardcore as me! But then I thought LIFE AS WE KNEW IT was tame. So take that with a grain of salt.

avisannschild said...

Ah, well since I have Life as We Knew It on my TBR pile already, maybe I'll start there and see how our views compare!

Lauren said...

Great review! The premise of this sounds intriguing enough, but I'm not really sure what I'll think about it because I keep seeing mixed reviews. Though I guess I won't know until I give it a try.

bermudaonion said...

The premise does sound pretty awesome - too bad it's not better executed.

Becky said...

I really love the sound of this book. Shame that the main man didn't come over in the way you hoped. Thanks for an interesting review.

Simply_Megan said...

I loved this book - but I agree, the baby code didn't seem worthy of giving your life up for it.

Lily Child said...

Great review. Sorry it was a bit of a let down! :(

Zibilee said...

Too bad that this one fell a little short. It sounds like it could have been a really stellar read, but was a bit bumbled in the execution. I liked hearing your thoughts on this one, as I had been thinking of purchasing it. I think I will wait awhile after reading your review!

Krista/Tower of Books said...

I'm reading this right now, although it's too early to tell what I think of it yet. Too bad it was a bit of a let down for you.

avisannschild said...

I actually really enjoyed this book in the end, though I can see your points about it. I also didn't really understand the big deal about the baby code, but I definitely want to read the next book to see what happens next! (I read Tortured, the story that bridges the two books, so I do have an idea of where she's going with the story.) Do you know if this is going to be a trilogy?

Krista said...

I've been dying to read this one! The world sounds really interesting. That's kind of a let down that the evil guys are tame, but I'm glad you still enjoyed it. Thanks for the awesome review :)