Series: Fire & Flood # 1
Published by Scholastic on February 25, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
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?
Tella’s relatively normal life is rocked by the serious and possibly incurable illness of her brother. One night, she finds a mysterious box in her bedroom. Inside is a device with a recording, informing her that she is “invited to be a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed.” It gives the time and location of the first meeting, and it further informs her that “The Brimstone Bleed will last three months…The winning prize will be the Cure.” Everything about the message is mysterious, but Tella latches on to the promise of the Cure. She’s not sure if any of this can be true, but she will try anything to save her brother. Before Tella sneaks out of the house to head to the meeting place (since she knows her parents will stop her), she hears them whispering, “How did they find her?” Clearly, her parents know more about this than she does. But they’re not willing to tell her, and Tella has no time to wait.
Fire & Flood reads much like a The Hunger Games Lite, with a manufactured fight-to-the-finish competition. But in this book, the competitors can choose to remove themselves. That is, I THINK they can. The similarities to THG were strong enough that I kept thinking, “Wait, can they really just walk away?” I was waiting for the ax to fall on these characters, just to make things a bit more exciting. Unlike THG, however, I’m still unsure of the motivations of The Brimstone Bleed organizers. Is it just for entertainment purposes? Is there some deeper meaning to this competition? Why is the Cure being withheld in this manner? I’m hoping these answers will be explored in the sequels, because this feels like a big omission.
The major weakness in Fire & Flood is Tella. When the main character in a book is bland and lacking in charisma, that is usually a deal-breaker. Fortunately, though, Scott created some secondary characters who ably compensate for the weaknesses in Tella. Even better than these characters are the Pandoras, the genetically-engineered animals who are each paired up with a competitor. The Pandoras look like regular animals, but each has unique supernatural abilities that are revealed as the story progresses. The Pandoras were SO interesting that I think I might have enjoyed more of a focus on them, rather than the humans.
Fire & Flood lacks the heart-stopping tension of The Hunger Games, but it’s still an enjoyable read. Now, where can I get a Pandora for myself?
Note: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
And for the fun part, I’m giving away my ARC of Fire & Flood. This contest is open to U.S. residents. Also, be sure to stop by my giveaway for an ARC of A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier.