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    4.5 stars

    The Birthmarked trilogy introduces us to our heroine, Gaia Stone, a teenage midwife living in a society about 400 years in the future. She lives in a unique world, in which a slightly ramshackle, dystopian community and a scientifically advanced city exist side-by-side, separated by just a wall. The city inside the wall, the Enclave, is a pristine, white safe haven, where the privileged reside and thrive due to the scientific and technological advancements at their disposal. Outside the wall is Whartfon, a dusty, dilapidated community in which all of the basic necessities, even water, are rationed by the Enclave. The families of the Enclave have been dealing with problems of infertility and hemophilia, and as a solution the Enclave requires that the residents of Wharfton fill a monthly quota of “advanced” babies - infants that are taken from their parents in Wharfton and brought behind the wall to be adopted by the families inside. This is the state of affairs when we first meet Gaia. After her parents are arrested for reasons she doesn’t understand, Gaia begins to question the work she does for the Enclave and the morality of taking newborns away from their mothers. Gaia becomes determined to save her parents, and this decision kickstarts a whirlwind adventure through three novels as she takes on the government. In addition to my love for Gaia, the development of all the side characters was my favorite aspect of these books. The supporting characters are so beautifully developed that I feel like I know them all very well. Gaia’s main love interest is Leon, a boy from behind the wall who starts out as a very cold and stoic character. This trilogy also includes a love square - that’s right, there are three guys vying for Gaia’s attention. I pretty much always hate love triangles, but this square was awesome. It didn’t take over the story and blind Gaia from seeing anything but the men in front of her. It was always present and caused some tension, but it wasn’t the main focus of the story, and I really appreciated that. All of the men were kind and loving, and I enjoyed the fact that they could all love Gaia without becoming petty or dramatic, as is so often the case in YA novels. Gaia has a cast of characters surrounding her that is so diverse, caring, supportive, and devoted to this young girl that their sense of community is almost tangible. This trilogy also has one of the best bad guy teams I have ever read, and it really caught me by surprise. The Protectorate, the leader of the Enclave, and (for lack of a better word) his lackey, Mabrother Iris, are appalling. They are so stinking creepy. The Protectorate is evil in a more subtle way - he needs to save face as the ruler of the Enclave, so he can’t do anything outwardly evil. But Mabrother Iris gives me goosebumps. He is a vile man that has no concern for anyone and will do anything it takes to get the answers he wants. The reader gets little glimpses of what these men are capable of throughout all the books, but it wasn’t until I read Promised that I realized how despicable they are. Definitely some of the creepiest villains I have ever read.
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