Discussion: Promised – Caragh O’Brien

promised

Title: Promised(Birthmarked Series)[Amazon]
Author: Caragh O’Brien[website]
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Genre: Dystopian
Source/Type: ARC/Paperback
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever.  She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland.  In Gaia’s absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher.  Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what–or whom–she loves most?

Discussion:
Andi: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I can’t adequately explain how much I loved this third and final book of the Birthmarked Trilogy. It had everything that pulled me into the first one and more. My Leon was back and with him was the Gaia I loved from the get go.

Michelle: Couldn’t agree more!  The second book wasn’t bad, just different, but I was glad to see O’Brien get back to the original tone and come out strong in the end.  In particular, I liked that Gaia got her balls back.  She was a bit wishy washy in book two and seeing her stand up to Leon’s father and the whole of the Enclave was well received on my part.  Vive la revolucion!

So let’s get down to it.  What did you think about Gaia’s progression in this book?

A: I think that was one of the things I loved most about this series. Gaia basically grew up right in front of our eyes. In book one she was a scared little girl, book two she was a confused, broken hearted orphan and in the final book she was an adult, a leader, that was ready to make difficult choices even if it came at a cost to her personally. She matured beyond her years in Promised and it made her all the more likable as a character. Between her solid relationship with Leon, her friendship with Will, and the comfort and leadership she provided for the people of New Sylum, she became the heroine she could have been from the start.

M: YES!  She was what made the book.  Her strength, ability and ultimate vulnerability carried the story to great depths.  Underlying that all she was so lonely (even though she was never really alone) and somewhat desperate for family.  Having lost her parents she wanted to be sure that her sister remained a part of her life at all costs and that was what drove her to take the risks she did.  It was what kept her going which I found to be truly enthralling.

That and her growing relationship with Leon.  Theirs was the type of love story that I enjoy a great deal.  There was so much push and pull to it.  The evolution of each of them individually then together as a couple was intriguing.  The underlying love was there but at times the angst of their situation and surroundings seeping in caused realistic problems.  That and the frustration, spite and all around determination they both had was fab-U-lous.

A: My heart really broke for Leon through a lot of it. His father just did not love him at all. He had no faith in him and found it easier to find the bad in him than the good and only cared about believing a story in his head than seeing who his son really was. Just like Gaia, Leon too was looking for a family, a place to belong because he never had that feeling of safety and security growing up. Gaia was that for him and if anything happened to her that the hands of his father he would never have forgiven himself.

That was one of the characteristics I loved about Leon, and Gaia too to an extent. They would have laid their lives down for each other without hesitation if they thought one of them would be saved. I hated what Leon’s father had done to Gaia, but she willingly would have done it just to save the boy she loved and relied on. You know what I mean?

M:  I absolutely know what you mean.  I found their dedication and loyalty to each other appealing as well.  That neither of them had that “what’s in it for me” outlook was fairly impressive.  I was equally impressed with O’Brien’s ability to keep from making those traits appear too over the top.  There wasn’t too much pining and hysterical behavior from either of them.  both were clear in their vision of what needed to happen, were proactive in planning the steps to get there, then active in making those steps come to pass.  They each thought of the other but didn’t also didn’t discount the greater population.  Both realized what the impact of their actions would be not only on themselves and their relationship but also the friends, family and general population that were relying on them to make things better.

To that point, what did you think of how the overall conflict with the Enclave played out and was resolved?

A: I must admit some of it seemed slightly rushed and a tad convenient. The scenes of the attack wasn’t 100% believable for me. It was slightly wrapped up in a nice tidy bow at the end and I guess it just left me wanting more. Maybe that was my issue and why I thought it was rushed. I want another book about these people. I want more story. I want aftermath so I felt just slightly cheated. O’Brien has a gold mine with these characters. I mean even in the second book, the book I wasn’t over the moon about, I was invested in what happened and what choices they made. So for the book/conflict to be done the way it was…I just wanted more. I still want more!

M:  I felt like the situation was rushed as well.  The whole premise of the story was built on this society and the differences between what was happening within the walls and without.  How one upheld the other.  The story veered, through the second book, into a relationship focus.  Mainly Gaia’s relationships.  This wasn’t a bad thing necessarily but it made the compelling story that the different societies rebelling with each other fall short.

Like you, I also would love something more from these characters.  A follow up several years later to see where everyone is would be fantastic!

A: Maybe we should start a campaign, get a petition going, call in the National Guard! Do you think that will get us some more of this wonderfulness? If so, I’m all in.

M:  I never rule out the possibility.  Sometimes if you scream loud enough and long enough people start to listen.  Or at the very least do what you want to shut you up!

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