Sunday, April 10, 2016

Some Thoughts... I guess: Promised


by Caragh M. O'Brien
Book 3 (final) of Birthmarked trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  1.5 Stars


**This is the third and last book in the Birthmarked trilogy and so the following review may have information that could spoil the reading experience of the previous two books if you have not yet read them. Please proceed with caution.**

So let’s get straight to the point:

The concluding book in the Birthmarked trilogy was honestly kind of unnecessary and felt out of place.

As I had already stated in a previous post, I’m not sure I understand what was actually going on in this book. Birthmarked had been a mediocre read, but it still had a good concept, a strong enough story line, well-developed characters, and enough interest to keep me hooked. It wasn’t the best book in the world, but I still enjoyed it. I went on to read Prized because I wanted to know what would happen to Gaia and how the entire dystopian aspect would be settled. But Prized turned out to be fairly disappointing: all the typical YA tropes that hadn’t been used in Birthmarked found their way into Prized and a lot of other things about the book didn’t make much sense either.

So I’d been hesitant to start reading the last book Promised without some outside motivation.

And so I stuck the darn book on two different Reading Challenges.

I had a small inkling of hope that things would turn out a bit better. Prized had to have used up the YA quotas of love polygonal angst and “speshul snowflake” main character clichés, right?

Guess not.

The Story in Brief:
So after all the too many events from Prized that I don’t really remember, the Birthmarked story line takes Gaia and her people (now that she’s a teenage leader of a large community) back to where she had started out from: the Enclave, Wharfton, the Wall that divides up the rich from the working class… the place where people outside the wall are expected to give up their babies for the honor of letting people inside the wall raise them as their own.

But Gaia was a runaway fugitive and Leon is a man despised by his own adoptive father, the Protectorat, who wouldn’t hesitate to use his own manipulations to get what he wants, even if other people have to die or suffer.

Gaia and Leon are now engaged to be married. The people of Sylum are bent on creating New Sylum with hopes for a better life. But the Protectorat of the Enclave still stands in everyone’s way.

My Thoughts:
This book was ill-executed (as had been the case with Prized).

That is the only reason I can think of as to why nothing made any sense at all and why all the characters we had sort of had respect for ended up being flimsy excuses for main characters and heroes of the people.

As I had mentioned before in my previous post, I don’t remember being so annoyed with Gaia in Birthmarked. She had been strong, resourceful, and intelligent. She had her priorities straight. She had a purpose. She wasn’t so naïve.

I remember that Birthmarked was one of the first few YA dystopians I had read back when they were first becoming popular. I was in a phase of having just finished the entire Hunger Games trilogy in one marathon read and needed to find another, similar type of story to satisfy my Bookish needs.

Having just discovered Goodreads at this same time, I started looking to the whole “similar books other readers enjoyed” recommendations options provided.

Being that a good number of YA books are written in the first person POV (which is probably my least favorite POV, but I deal with it because, BOOKS), I was happy to see that Birthmarked was written in a third person POV.

And I also found it great that Gaia wasn’t (supposedly) a typical YA heroine. She had a scar on her face, she had her personality flaws, she reacted naturally to everything that happened to her. Sure, she wasn’t the best candidate for rebellion hero for the people in this dystopian, but she had time to grow and develop, and that was what she did throughout that first book.

But then Prized came along and backtracked a lot of her growth, opting, instead, to make Gaia that special YA female lead who attracts all the men, solves all the mysteries with her limited intelligence, and becomes the savior of all the people by doing… stuff.

And now, in Promised Gaia further cements her “speshul” status by being the leader of her people who is loved by all despite the fact that she makes really bad decisions, comes up with ill-conceived strategies, can’t control her own people, and doesn’t have any foresight into the “Bigger Picture”. I mean, her plan was to get back to Wharfton and the Enclave and request assistance from the Protectorat so that she and her people could start a new little community. And it surprised me that she thought she could just waltz right back into her old home and get exactly what she wanted without any problems.

She left the Enclave as a wanted fugitive--did she really think the Protectorat would welcome her back with open arms and fulfill her every request without giving her any trouble?

What irked me the most about her was that, as the leader of New Sylum, she doesn’t act like it. She gets arrested upon arrival and still she continues to attempt “playing nice” with the Protectorat without any back-up or contingency plans. The Protectorat manipulates her in brutal ways time and again and she still believed that she could find peace with him, that his people and her people could all live together under some misguided sense of comradery. And whenever any one of her closest people came up with any plans for her to think about, she immediately shoots it down with her own twisted logic and being all, “No, this is not how we are going to run New Sylum. I know what needs to be done and I’ll thank you to stop disobeying me even though I make really bad decisions, too.”

So doesn't make her decisions based on what she feels is best for her people.  It just feels like she makes her decisions based on what she stubbornly believes to be the "right way" to settle a new community, even if it means endangering her life, her friends' lives, and the rest of the people of New Sylum's lives.  Because she makes really bad decisions.

She should be thinking about her people and what's best for them.  As the leader they look to for guidance and commands, she shouldn't be trouncing off and almost getting herself killed.  As the leader trying to establish a new community and see her people to a new and safe life worth living, she shouldn't be negotiating terms with the Protectorat while at his mercy without any fallback plans; especially after he threatens her and her people time and again.

She knows what kind of a person he is and what kind of an army he employs and knows that they wouldn't question razing her New Sylum to the ground without hesitation.  So why, oh why, was she so stubbornly set against having a fallback battle plan just in case the Protectorat decides to squash all of them rather than extend that friendly hand in peaceful alliance that he was never going to extend in the first place?

No one else in the book made sense either. Leon would go trouncing off on his own to wreak his own havoc without consulting anyone, which then caused Gaia to go after him rather than holding her place as her community’s leader and taking charge. The Protectorat and his wife would arrest or torture Gaia and then claim that she has a place with them in their baby factory as a guest, claim that she and her people are the terrorists, claim that Leon is the monster and a murderer, then turn around and arrest and torture her some more.

And, again, all this time, Gaia is still hopeful that she can come to peaceful terms with the Protectorat and get her people what they need to have.

Honestly, a rebellion against the Protectorat should have started up two books ago, and Gaia should not be the leader of that. Maybe she could be the symbol of the rebellion, but an emotional teenager who makes really bad decisions should never be the leader of any war. Especially since she keeps putting herself and everyone else into danger by acting on her own ill-conceived ideas.

But in the end, everyone still loves her and everyone still believes she’s the only one who can lead them into equal rights and freedom.

This last book felt like it was written with no direction, and that the story’s events were randomly plucked out of thin air as the author thought of them. Nothing really made any sense. I’m going to admit right now that I skim-read a good portion of the last half of Promised. At least the book was short.


This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in June 2015.

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