The authors approached us in relation to this book and asked if we would like a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. Having accepted their generous request, let the reviewing commence.
The first point that’s important to make about ‘Branded’ is that it’s set in such an original world. You can almost think of the Hole,
where those that have committed crimes corresponding with the seven deadly sins are sent, as a Tartarus parallel, as it contained a lot of horrors that would have comfortably resided in the Underworld. The authors did an excellent job in setting out their world and describing said horrors, though perhaps visions of spurting blood will haunt my nightmares for a few days after putting this book down! The violence and the gore was gripping and certainly did it’s job in outlining how terrible life in the Hole truly was.
The Hole is ran by this evil dictator, known ambiguously as the Commander, so instantly his identity is hidden and there’s a great sense of mystery over who he is and his motives in purging the world of crime. As suspected when dictators force their beliefs down other people’ throats, those people will start to rebel. Cue our beautiful main character, Lexi. Lexi’s father is a legend when it comes to the growing resistance and Lexi later realises that it is up to her to continue her father’s legacy and fight for not only his beliefs but her own.
Lexi starts out as this very strong character, who is struggling to survive in her society under the tyrannical hand of her stepfather. Once she is captured and sent to the Hole, where she is unjustly accused of a crime she didn’t commit, it doesn’t take long for the brutal world to break her. Her strength vanishes, and her extensive gag reflex appears as she is literally horrified to the point of physical illness at what’s going on in the Hole. Her character was changeable throughout the book, but her intentions were in the right place, and this was especially easy to see when she befriends Alyssa, a young girl dying of an incurable disease. When the situation demands it, Lexi will throw herself in front of children and dogs to protect them but perhaps relies on being saved herself by a made-of-muscle male character.
Cole, Lexi’s guard, becomes her love interest despite the rules against guards and sinners falling in love. But who can put a stop to love, right? Lexi and Cole’s relationship develops quickly, and could be another reason for Lexi’s increasing dependancy on others. Their romance is slightly more steamy, shall we say, than any other YA novel, but I think the desperation in the romance well reflects the dangers of the world and just how much it can hurt people emotionally, as well as physically.
Some parts of the novel seemed a little too convenient in some places, however this isn’t atypical of fast pace novels that wish to get the reader to the end goal and definitely made sure none of the plot was irrelevant. Also, there were some times in the novel when the characters would have inconsistent personalities, for example one minute Lexi was demanding to be protected, but a minute later she would plead her independence. Yet, ‘Branded’ is going to be part of a trilogy, so hopefully as the other books in the Sinners Series are written the characters will retain consistent personalities, especially because after the plot twisty ending, Lexi no longer has as many people trying to hold her back.
The ending was certainly the most thrilling part of the novel, with a few things that I totally didn’t see coming, especially the scenes in the Control room (but no spoilers, of course!) After a rapid-fire ending like that, I can’t wait to read the other books in the series when they’re released just because the authors now have so much freedom in what can happen to Lexi, Cole and the unforgettable Zeus.
Overall, we rated this book 3 out of 5 stars, because although there were elements of the novel we really enjoyed, like the fast pace and the sweet character of Alyssa, we had a few problems with how the characters developed. That said, we’d definitely recommend ‘Branded’ for anyone that’s looking for some thrilling and minutely mysterious dystopian fiction that will have you on the edge of your seat (or other preferred reading places), especially when things start to heat up towards the end!
Thank you so much to the lovely authors, Abi and Missy, for giving us the chance to review this book, we’ve loved being part of the Branded Blog Tour and wish the novel and you all the best with your future novels that we can’t wait to read!