Birthmarked : Caragh O’Brien

BirthmarkedBirthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Birthmarked tells the story of young midwife Gaia Stone who helps deliver babies to the Enclave – a walled, er, enclave who brings up the children inside of the, god this is going to kill me, Enclave and forget their previous lives in the process. They become privileged citizens, able to live in a luxury denied to those outside the, er, *collapses* , Enclave.

I just didn’t get on with this. I actually enjoy a good dystopian. The Hunger Games was something quite excellent and I’ll be one of the first in line to see the film. But oh, Birthmarked made me lose the will to live a little bit.

Let’s start with the cover. It looks amazing on the little image here. But in reality it’s just so busy, you lose the title and you lose the author. Kind of important. And the text, whilst stylistically interesting and certainly different, isn’t the title. It’s just recycling the blurb. And if you can make the blurb that pithy that it fits into two sentences on the front, then why on earth do you have two incredibly dense paragraphs on the back?

The story itself opens well. Very well. There’s a dark, and dank feeling to it that pervades the pages with a sense of slow horror. The birth scenes are handled excellently and there’s a real sensation of being on the edge of some central terrifying moments.

But then that’s about it. It slides very heavily into standard dystopian tropes and does that with all the subtlety of a kid hyped up on chocolate.

Gaia is actually sort of annoying. She just reacts to things. I have a rule of thumb, if I can’t figure out what her voice is – like what she’d say to something in a conversation – then I’m struggling. And I couldn’t. She’s surprisingly anodyne. I’d be depressed if my niece found her inspirational.

The construction of the world jarred with me as well. Lexically, there were quite a few moments which just made me go “Oh what?”:-

1. Gaia referring to her mother as ‘mom’. Just seemed very much out of place.
2. The Tvaltar. Right. Really. I get it.
3. Gaia and (POTENTIAL SPOILER, DON’T DO IT, OKAY YOU ASKED FOR IT) Maya. Really? Really???

I also don’t know if it’s the edition I read but there were a few copy errors which jarred. These were mainly towards the end of the book.

And also – please can somebody show me a dystopian YA where the men are the nurses and the women are the soldiers? I am sick of gender sterotypes being one of the few things that survive into the future.

Note: I won a copy of this directly from the Publisher via a competition on Twitter.

View all my reviews


  1. Have you read Garth Nix’s Sabriel and sequels? I absolutely loved the first two, both had really interesting girl protagonists who were active and brave in quite different ways. The books handle issues of destiny, duty and quest in quite different ways. Highly recommended.

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