Expected publication: February 25th, 2014
Published by: Scholastic Press
A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.
Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.
The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?I have a confession to make: I really wanted to get my hands on this novel. As soon as I got approved for it on NetGalley, I sent it to my Kindle and opened it right up. My expectations were a little too high so I ended up feeling let down during the first half of the book. I had a really hard time getting into the Hunger Games style of the novel. However--I don't know when it happened but probably around the 50% mark--everything fell into place and I understood why so many people are raving about this one.
The main character, Tella, receives a mysterious hearing aid type of device that tells her she has been chosen to participate in the Brimstone Bleed, a competition where the prize is the cure that will save her brother's life. Tella, being the teenager that she is, doesn't think twice or takes any time to consider the dangers of this quest, and sets off to take part in the race. You find out all of the details of the Brimstone Bleed along with Tella so everything is a huge puzzle until you the very end.
One of my main issues with the first part of the novel was the main character. She is a mixture between an obnoxious teenager and a girly girl. At one point she was more concerned about her appearance than the fact that she is in a race, which means that taking the time to fix your hair is a luxury rather than a right. I had no idea how this girl was going to stay alive long enough to see the end of the novel. After a while I began to laugh at Tella's inner monologue and that's when I noticed that Victoria Scott's writing is brilliant. She wrote a character who represents a good chunk of teenage girls. If you think about it, many of them won't behave like a Katniss. They'll whine and think about trivial stuff and probably act silly until they grasp the severity of the situation. That character development took me by surprise and I am a little bit ashamed to say that I grew to really like Tella. Her hidden inner strength paired with her girly ways felt refreshing and realistic.
The concept itself has some flaws but I enjoyed the unique aspects of the story. I couldn't help but draw some parallels between The Hunger Games and Fire & Flood but I shouldn't have and you'll be better off if you don't fall into this trap. Fire & Flood has a different feel to it. Even though they are plenty of life and death situations, the story itself isn't written in a serious tone. It isn't afraid to be silly and I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud a couple of times. However, I had a huge issue with the "no rules" policy. What the heck is up with that? How can a race that will last three months and takes place across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain not have any rules? Like, at all?! I find that hard to believe. Lack of structure aside, I love the idea of the Pandoras. Each of the contenders receive an animal companion, called Pandoras, and they are engineered to have special powers and to protect their masters. I really liked this aspect of the novel and I'm really excited to keep learning about them and their abilities in the upcoming books.
The story has a couple of interesting surprises, which will not only shock you but they'll also keep you reading until the very end. And that ending. Oh. My. Goodness. I'll just say that my jaw nearly hit the floor when I got to the twist at the very end. You'll want to get a copy of the second novel in the series ASAP. Take my word for it.
Note: I received access to the eARC of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.