Full disclosure: I listened to the audiobook and hated the reader, so I'm sure that influenced my feelings about Birthmarked. Note to all readers: constantly pausing at incredibly awkward points in a sentence is ANNOYING. I had to listen to the whole thing on 1.5x speed and there were still insanely long pauses in places that made absolutely no sense.
Even forgetting about the reader, I cannot believe all the high ratings on this book. It
was not good.
Here's the gist of the story: Gaia Stone is a midwife that lives in poverty outside a wall surrounding the rich members of society, called the Enclave. The first three babies she delivers each month have to be delivered to the Enclave, no exceptions. She does as she's told, no questions asked. In fairness, her mother has done the same thing her whole life, so she didn't know any better.
Gaia's mother and father are arrested one night and she has no idea why, except that it might have something to do with a list they were keeping. Gaia is upset, but she just keeps going about her business as usual for a couple weeks and hears nothing about her parents the whole time. She still does NOT start to question her loyalty to the Enclave at this point. She just keeps delivering those babies to the Enclave.
Finally, someone sneaks her news about her parents and it's not good, so she decides to break in and find them. She goes in with no plan whatsoever, but that's ok because she gets distracted by something else and gives up a chance to see her mom. She's captured, of course, because she's not very bright and she had no plan. Several times throughout the book, though, other characters tell her how smart she is. They're wrong.
She's questioned by a soldier that says he's going to do what he can for her, but she completely misses his point and vows to hate him and never trust him. Not surprisingly, she suddenly stops hating him not long after, with no explanation for the change in her feelings.
While Gaia is trapped inside the Enclave, she finally starts to question them, but I think it takes her way too long to get to that point.
In addition to Gaia being annoyingly stupid and naive, there is a ton of info-dumping done through conversations between characters and it all sounds very forced and non-conversational.
In conclusion, I didn't like it. I didn't hate it and I finished it, but I have no desire to finish the series. Maybe someday I'll read Prized just to see if I like the story any better when I'm actually reading it instead of listening to it. Maybe.