I read the audiobook of Birthmarked and got it digitally from the library, so when I googled covers for this post I loved seeing how gorgeous they are! It isn't the most important part of the book, of course, but it is nice when it is done well.
Birthmarked takes place several decades in the future, where society is dichotomized: the privileged few live in the Enclave, and they provide everyone else with food, water, and the Tvaltar (aka, movie theater). Gaia and her mother are midwives outside the wall, and their practice is ruled by the baby quota -- the first three babies delivered by each midwife each month must be delivered to the Enclave. No one knows why, but no one questions it -- without the Enclave, they would have nothing. However, when Gaia's parents go missing, she is determined to find out what happened and how she can save them -- even if it means breaking into the Enclave.
I had never heard about this book and picked it up when my nursing preceptor recommended it. While at first I was a little put off by the writing style (there are some redundancy and over-writing issues), the story itself was fascinating and the plot was rock-solid. I was first drawn in by Gaia's life -- ever since having my own child, I have been fascinated by childbirth, and the nurse in me was interested as well. Other medical details crop up later in the story, and while not everything is perfectly accurate, its clear that O'Brien did some research. I also loved the intricacy of the plot. There are many different elements at play, and they eventually weave together, but I couldn't see how for quite a while. It left me eager to get to the next part of the book and uncertain what would happen next, something that is especially valuable in an audiobook.
As I stated above, the writing did leave something to be desired for me -- it wasn't awful but there were flaws that particularly stood out as the audiobook was read rather slowly. However, Birthmarked was fun and exciting, and sometimes that is exactly what I need in a book -- something to entertain and keep me guessing. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
Warnings: Brief references to sensuality, some descriptive birthing scenes