Tella Holloway has become much stronger than she was at the start of the Brimstone Bleed. A trek through a jungle and across a desert will do that to you. Now, as she prepares to go into the second half of this deadly race to save her brother, she wonders if she is really strong enough to make it through. Can she really defeat all these people? Can she, a girl who spent her life in search of the perfect dress and cup of coffee, really go head to head with a group of adults and really come out victorious? And could she have survived the first half without Guy’s help? This second installment of the Fire & Flood series comes with just as much peril and self-doubt, but an altogether stronger Tella. Let’s see if she can haul ass and save her brother’s life.
It’s been a while since I read Fire & Flood, so my love for Tella had to be made over. I remember loving her sassiness in F&F as well as her pandora, but I didn’t quite remember her exactly as she is. At the beginning of this, I was annoyed at her. She keeps trying to step out from underneath Guy’s shadow and lead the group and that isn’t what I wanted to see. I wanted to see her follow Guy’s lead and maybe watch a few hidden make-out scenes. Every time she went against him, I wanted to smack her. And then she learns that he doesn’t believe she can stand on her own, that he isn’t sure she could have made it this far without him, and she’s is devastated…and more determined than ever to stand on her own two feet. During that whole speech, I was a little conflicted. I mean, on the one hand, you kinda have to agree with him. She doesn’t know how to survive on the land and may well have starved or died of dehydration without him. On the other, that is a harsh thing to admit and Tella is always stronger than anyone gives her credit for. Then, she starts making smarter decision and slowly earns everyone’s respect and I was finally okay with her stepping out. But it wasn’t an immediately response. The thing that always won me over from moment one was her love for her Pandora and that is amplified here. She reaches out to all the Pandoras and does what she can to protect them as they would her.
Despite his harsh words and general unwillingness to talk, I still love Guy. He’s constantly doing whatever he can to keep Tella safe, even when Tella doesn’t want him to risk his neck for her. Even if his actions are misguided, he still shows a great deal of care for Tella’s well being and it’s obvious that he cares for her, even if he can’t bring himself to say the words.
One of the things I applauded Scott for in my review of Fire & Flood was the novel’s brutality. This is no different than that. While I still applaud Scott for not holding back, it still broke my heart in many ways…as I’m sure it broke hers. We get more character death here and that’s harder to take because I’ve become even more attached to them by now. You all know I’m not a fan of character death. While I am aware that at story of this caliber requires character death (because it’s preposterous to believe they can all make this deadly trek without casualties), that doesn’t make it any easier for me to read. Besides the character death, the Pandora deaths are what really brought me down to a sob-worthy level. Just to be clear, I don’t want novels to make me sob. I respect that it takes a certain skill to bring your readers to such a state where they feel the need to shed real-world tears over a fictional event, but that is not what I seek when I look for a new novel. ANYWAY, by the time you reach the end of this, you know where it’s going Pandora-wise. We’ve really all felt it heading this way since the first introduction of the companions, but we were just hoping we were wrong, that Scott would find another way to devastate us. Trust you’re instincts on this because that is exactly where it’s going and you were spot on. And it’s heartbreaking. Devastating doesn’t seem a strong enough word. I won’t say more than that and the fact that it broke me.
Beyond the character death and the brutality, this novel is spectacular. I was able to continue reading it and enjoying it despite my issues and that’s saying something. The writing and plot blew me away, just like they did in the first novel. This is so very different than Scott’s Dante Walker series and I really liked that. It’s a very intense little book. I was one I could never binge read because it’s too potent. That is, until the last 100 pages when I didn’t care if my brain melted because I had to know what happened next. Does Tella win? DOES SHE? I’m not telling! But I’m excited about what comes next. Though this ends on a cliffhanger (is anyone really surprised by that?), I’m excited to see how the group works to take down this crazy company that is killing people for sport.
The low rating here is mostly due to character and animal death. I can be forgiving at times and I know some think it’s unfair to rate a book I enjoyed 3 stars because it’s a mediocre rating, but that’s just how it works for me. Animal death is something to grabs me more than character death. That’s my real-world personality showing through because I’m a big animal lover and I don’t like the thought of them being abused. Beyond that, this is a great follow-up to Fire & Flood. If you enjoyed that, you’ll love this. Just, you know, be prepared because no one is safe and everything can change in the blink of an eye.
****Thank you to Scholastic Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review****