A copy was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This review might contain very slight spoilers because I express how I felt at various parts of the book (with no details other than things like ‘midway through the book’ etc). If you want to go into this book with a clean slate than read no further (but come back after you read the book and let me know what you thought of it)
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 read The Collector by Scott and knew going in that Fire & Flood would be a completely different type of book, and it was. The pacing was fairly fast especially after the midway point. I felt that I had created expectations based on some comparisons I’d seen (Hunger Games in particular). Because of this I expected more blood, higher stakes, and a much more brutal race (especially with the epic name Brimstone Bleed). Because of this comparison (that for the life of me can’t think of where I’d even seen that) I thought this was a dystopian, but it was not. I’m not sure which genre it would belong too but Tella’s world seems very much like our own.
As Tella’s journey began it felt tame and I kept waiting for the stakes to be raised (what happens if you lose the race? Was there any hazards beyond nature?). I admit it was rather difficult for me to get invested in the story and Tella for the first third. I was terrified that I wouldn’t enjoy it because I had such high hopes and it wasn’t fitting the mold I had unintentionally created.
As I continued to read I began to find myself flipping pages faster and some of the twists that Scott pulled I didn’t see coming (one in particular had me put down the book open mouthed). The race started to earn it’s name and I was much happier with the second half. I was relieved that I started to worry for Tella and I wasn’t sure how Scott was going to wrap things up. Fair warning- this book only contains two of the four legs of the Brimstone Bleed. I felt that Scott wrapped up the story arc for this first book but left us with two more races to go.
One of the reasons I had trouble with Fire & Flood in the beginning was because Tella was very difficult for me to relate to. I felt that her narration was very juvenile and I couldn’t connect to her, though I wanted to. As the story continues this began to change; I don’t know if her character had significant growth or that she grew on me but I became very invested in her and her story.
The side characters were well done and I felt that they enhanced the story because I could understand each of their plights. Well, all of the side characters save one. A specific character felt very one sided to me because I was never able to grasp the reasons behind his actions. This was doubly disappointing because he was intended to be a villain. I didn’t feel that any reason was given for his cruelty and I never had a clear read on his personality or motivations beyond his blanketed brutality. I like my ‘bad’ guys to walk the line of good and evil and have depth in their motivations.
There was a romance in Fire & Flood and I thought it was obvious exactly how it was going to play out but was still very well done and easy to get behind. I felt Tella and this character had good chemistry and banter, making their interactions entertaining and believable. I look forward to seeing more of the two of them.
To my surprise, I really enjoyed the animal companions, Pandoras. When I heard that the book included animals with special skills I feared they would be a tiny bit cheesy or too much like reading Pokémon. I was relieved and impressed with how well Scott was able to add them seamlessly into the storyline and I ended up getting rather attached to a few of them.
Fire & Flood was a departure in style from the Dante Walker series but I believe her fans will enjoy this book as well. I had some trouble in figuring out how I wanted to rate this book. I chose 3.5 because of the reasons listed above including the story’s villain feeling flat and my slow start in connecting with the main character, Tella. That being said, Victoria Scott was able to create a cast of characters different from the others I’ve read of hers, yet able to keep her style and witty dialog.