Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
A Sinners Series
Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.
Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.
Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
I turn on the faucet for a long while only to discover
ice-cold water rushing out. The water never warms and I begin to understand.
The Commander thinks he can wash away my soul by freezing me to death. He
thinks he can destroy me by stripping away my possessions. But he can’t and I
won’t let him take my memories, my ambition, and my pride.
He thinks I’m so easily broken.
The Commander doesn’t know anything about me, what I grew up
with, what I endured—the father I lost, the mother I hate, the brother who
walked out of my life, and the stepfather I was forced to accept. He thinks
since I was rich, making me poor will cause me to give up. What he doesn’t
understand is that, after my father passed away, I grew up behind walls of
hatred. I had nothing, but had everything at the same time. I owned expensive
clothes, enjoyed good schooling, and lived in a nice home. But my body was just
a shell protecting an empty, desperate heart. My life was a colorful façade.
I had so much time to sit and think. I spent the majority of
my life between four walls. I was abandoned, neglected, starved, betrayed, and
abused. I’ve already been treated like the scum of the earth, so the Hole is
nothing new. He wants to erase every sign of my existence on this earth, but I
won’t let that happen. He can strip me naked, but he’ll never reach my soul.
It’s personal, completely personal.
Firstly i want to start off by thanking Abi and Missy for giving me the opportunity to join this blog tour and read the revamped version of Branded. I added the first edition of Branded to my TBR ages ago but honestly it just got lost among the many! (Yes it is that big!) So when they approached me and asked if i wanted to read & review.. hell yeah i did! So glad i was given the chance because Branded is an experience you do not want to miss out on!
The justice system and theory of 'innocent until proven guilty' are just two of the things that no longer exist since the Commander took over fifty years ago and created the hole. The seven sins are what the Commander perceived to be the downfall of society and there fore must be removed and isolated as well as punished. If you are found to be a sinner you are branded and sentenced to life in the hole. If you have been accused there is no investigate or trial into the accuracy of the accusation against you. If you are accused as a sinner, you are branded a sinner. Each of the seven sins has it's own colour brand that is branded upon your neck on arrival at the hole, each sin has a colour as to enable others to identify just what kind of sinner you are.
The book kicks off with an attempted suicide, Lexi is in a bad place she has been beaten down and broken to a shadow of her former self and only seeks an escape from the misery and torment her life has become. She thinks she has hit rock bottom, little does she know it's about to get a whole lot worse. The Commander's guards arrive just as Lexi is about to end it all to arrest her and escort her to the hole. When she realizes it's probable she's going to die the fight in her returns and the desire to live gives her the will to fight.
"They don't bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place- The Hole. Twenty-foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There's no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it in twelth grade.
To the outside i'm filth now. I'll never be allowed to return to the life i knew. No one ever does."
With the blue band of Lust wrapped around Lexi's neck she has become a target of hate and want. Upon her arrival into the chaos of the Hole it's pretty clear that all she has heard of the Hole could never have prepared her for this. She is assigned to a guard, Cole is to protect her and keep watch over her, it's a good job she has him or she may never have made it a day. The sinners live in squalor, there are no rules and the guards do as they please. Each sinner is assigned a job whilst living in the hole, they work every day. No questions asked. Lexi is to work in the hospital under the watching eye of Doctor Sutton, Lexi finds an unlikely allies in the doctor and forms a strong bong of sister hood with a ill girl, Alyssa.
Thoughout the book we see Lexi and Cole's relationship develop. Lexi is Cole's first female assignment and he tries to go about it with professionalism and keeps his emotions on lock down, he's unreadable and Lexi has no clue what to make of him. Over time though and the many incidents Lexi gets the two in they form a bond, more than just a guard and his prisoner, the two fall and they fall hard. But relationships between guards and sinners is seen as the worst crime in the Hole, to love is sinner is more than just frowned upon it's cause for public execution. So they have to keep their feelings hidden, but people are starting to notice and once the whispers of gossip start nothing good can come from it..
"Lexi, you're beautiful, there's no denying that." He shuffles his feet and shifts his weight uncomfortably. "They can't stop looking at you." He glances up at me for a brief second before locking his gaze on something behind me. "And i understand why." The words come out so soft i can barely hear them."
Sinner's are starting to fight back against the guards from car bombs to shooting in the streets the sinners want out. They want justice, many of them are innocents like Lexi and the injustice of the Hole riles them and is cause for a revolt. Things start heating up, the hospital is overflowing and with the death of a friend Lexi and Cole feel the pressure. The Commander's second in command Wilson has taken an interest into their relationship which keep the two of them on edge, making the need to get out even greater.
When Lexi was younger her father who outwardly spoke of his disgust and hatred for the Hole was murdered by the Commander for his view and his fight to get the old justice system back in place, though still flawed it was heaven compared to the current situation. Lexi's older brother Keegan ran away soon after their mother remarried and Lexi's life was yet again flipped with the loss of her best friend and torment her step father put her though. But during her time in the hole she discovers Keegan's alive! Not only that but he is one of the leaders leading the sinners revolt following in the footsteps of their father to bring the Commander and the Hole to an end once and for all. Upon their reunion Keegan and Cole clash, instantly the hate between them has Lexi ripped in two, between her brother who was her best friend and such an important part of her life to the one she loves, the other half of her soul.
"I had so much time to sit and think, i spent the majority of my life between four walls. I was abandoned, neglected, starved, betrayed and abused. Iv'e already been treated like the scum of the earth, so the Hole is nothing new. He wants to erase every sign of my existence on this earth, but i won't let that happen. He can strip me naked, but he'll never reach my soul."
Lexi becomes part of the revolt and the development we see in her is inspiring, from a broken defeated girl to a strong independent female she takes a full turn, an upward swing and really comes into her full potential as a character. This book has a lot of relationships and characters that develop over time and it's truly thrilling to see the changes each character and relation ship takes and what choices they make.
Branded is a story that will really put you through the wringer, emotional turmoil is an accurate way to put it i think. It is a Dystopian but it really is one on it's own the world building, action, romance and suspense are to perfectly entwined to create a story that is beautiful and epic. There are points where you will feel like your heart has been ripped from your chest and "right in the feels" doesn't even cover it. Branded will also have you laughing and falling in love alongside the characters, you feel involved in the story. Each moment is written to it's full potential leaving no gaps and leaves you feeling like every line you feel about matters in the building of the incredible story.
"What i don't tell him is that i'm fighting a major battle within myself over him. It's a hopeless war, but it rages on, giving me a headache. To trust or not to trust?
Branded is a phenomenal dystopian and love story all in one, it gives you the none stop thrill of action and the beauty of a realistic romance. Gritty and hardhitting, some of the moments you will be truly terrified for Lexi and Cole and will not believe the atrocity of the sinners in the Hole. If you are to read one dystopian this year this is the one to choose, Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki have written characters you will love and a wold so terrifying and gritty you'll never get enough. Cole is a phenomenal main character in his fierce protectiveness, love and loyalty he really is a book boyfriend you do not want to miss out on! Lexi goes from broken girl to a warrior and watching her develop and going through each struggle with her is an experience not to be missed. From Keegan, Sutton, Alyssa, Bruno even Zues and Wilson the secondary characters are there for you to love and to hate with shocking secrets and heartbreaking plot lines. I really loved Keegan and Lexi's relationship and the ending of the book had me seriously heartbroken.
Addictive from the first line and leaving you wanting more, Branded is a gritty and sexy read that i have no doubt will be a bestseller and is not to be missed out on! The writing is flawless and the story is original. definitely a five star read and a must for lovers of YA, dystopian's and romance.
You can overcome anything short of death.