Where reading is a way of life

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prized by Caragh M O'Brien

Synopsis:  Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, and 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.

My 2 cents:  Its really hard to do a review on this book, simply because a lot of it is so strange and outside the realm of normal reading.  I'll start with the society that Gaia "escapes" to.

Sylum feels like a village from pioneer times.  They don't have much technology, and live like peasants.  The last few generations, only 1 out of 10 babies born are girls, so they are dealing with the threat of extinction.  Because of this, they have way backwards rules.  First of all, the women are in charge.  At first, I though this was pretty cool, until I realized what daily life is like for the men.  Their sperm is tested when they are young to see if they can reproduce.  It turns out not only is there a shortage of girls, about a third of the men have inactive sperm.  The ones that can reproduce are given more rights than the ones who can't. Girls can only acceptably marry the ones that can reproduce.  They are not allowed to marry the ones that can't; if they have "relations" with these men, or decide not to marry at all, or have babies out of wedlock, they are cast out on their own (still living in Sylum) and lose their rights to vote.  If any man touches a woman and is caught, they can be put in the stocks, send to their makeshift prison camp, or exiled from Sylum.  Way harsh, huh? Can you imagine men not being able to touch a woman at all?  Ever? Because their sperm is bad?  Crazy!

Then there is Gaia, stuck in the middle of this.  She gets into a power struggle with Matrac Olivia from the start. She does have a mind of her own, and just escaped a society that gave her no rights because she was born outside the wall.  Now she can have her rights; but only if she follows the rules.  Besides which, she can't even visit her baby sister.

The weirdest thing of all is that when people come to Sylum, and stay more than a few days, they get what's called an "acclimation sickness" that makes them very ill for a few days; then they adjust and are no longer able to leave Sylum.  People who try to leave are found dead not far from the village.

I loved this story once is got going.  It took awhile to get into the story because it was so off-base.  But I think that's what made the story so good.  Gaia frustrates me through much of this story; it really is a huge learning experience for her.  She made up for it in the end, though.  I think there will be atleast one more book in the series, the way that it ended.  Definitely worth reading, giving it 4 stars!

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