Speculating on SpecFic

Fantastic Literature: From epic fantasy to fairytales to myth-making

Prized - Caragh M. O'Brien Read the full review here.**SPOILERS FOLLOW**In Prized, the author transplants the heroine Gaia into a new society which is completely different from the setting of the first book. Sylum has climate change survived by becoming a matriarchal society surviving on marshland north of the Enclave. A mysterious genetic defect has caused an imbalance in the number of males and females being born in Sylum, resulting in the men outnumbering the women 9:1. The matriarchal nature of the society means that 90% of the population does not get to vote. Sylum, quite frankly, scared me. The imbalance of the sexes has caused the citizens of Sylum to only allow children to be born to traditional, nuclear families, punish abortion by death, outlaw any form of physical contact between non-married couples and prize female babies above all else. This completely foreign world allows the author to examine some controversial issues about feminism, slavery and basic human rights.The character development in the book is at first glance unsatisfying. After standing up to the Enclave and having a strong moral compass in Birthmarked, Gaia becomes a weak, submissive character in Prized. The interaction between Gaia and the brothers Peter and Will was cliche at best, with both acting as foils for Leon, the hero of the last book. The growth of Leon was also very confusing, with the darker side of his character, which was hinted at in Birthmarked, coming through strongly in this book. However, once I had finished the novel I felt I understood the motivations behind the characters and their growth. There were three love interests in this novel, creating a 'love square'. Normally the introduction of a second love interest in the story to test the love of the hero and heroine has always irked me, because the heroine it usually makes no sense. However, in this society where women are few and far between, it makes sense that Gaia, being a smart, strong woman, would have more than one suitor. The way she handles the men is immature and although Gaia is only sixteen and acts according to her age and experience, I found myself wanting to slap her at times because of her naivety.