Branded by Abi Ketner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review, and as an invitation to be part of a re-launch blog tour. However, I had to decline my participation after reading the book. The reason: I didn't like it. I'm sad, I really really really wanted to adore - like - rave to the four winds about this book. But I couldn't... for the life of me, I couldn't.
This book has a great premise, but it's badly executed.
Premise: in a dystopian future world, what is left of the United States has been transformed by The Commander, an authoritative figure who re-organized everything including the judicial system. People's rights are obliterated and the presumption/suspicion of crime is enough to convict you. The conviction system consist of dividing crimes in the 7 capital sins. Each sinner is branded with a tattoo on their neck that has a colour for each sin: wrath (red), greed (yellow), sloth (black), pride (purple), lust (blue), envy (green) and gluttony (orange). Lexi Hamilton, our 18 year old main character is branded purple. She is then sent to The Hole, a prison/fortess sort of walled city where every sinner is dumped so they will be "transformed" and basically left to their own so the outside won't be contaminated with their sins. Some sinners work outside of The Hole, but are brought back every day and are carefully surveilled.
^^This premise rocked my socks. I was oh so very excited to read this book and couldn't believe my eyes on how cool the first few chapters were. However, the execution *cries* ouch ! *more tears of frustration*
Execution or why I didn't enjoy this book:
First of all, the worldbuilding is a mess. The great opening of this book gets obliterated later on, when you basically learn nothing about the society Lexi lives in. She is sent to The Hole and you are left in the dark about the High Society where she used to live, what is happening (or happened) to the world outside of the geographical territory of the U.S.? What happened with technology? They talk about books and how precious they are, but I really never learned how teaching went through in that future society. Also, who creates the things they use/wear/eat?
My main dislike, and why this book feels off is about its characters and how well or under developed they are. For the life of me, I was never able to feel any empathy for Lexi Hamilton. I know this is not a cause for book-hate, but damn, she is unlikable. First of, she is intensely traumatized by her step-father, and re-victimized once she is branded with the blue of lust. In The Hole, she is always in danger and is constantly relying in others for "saving". This trope gets dull after a few rounds it's thrown around. Also, her insta-love-you're-my sister-frienship with a patient she has to care for, Alyssa. I never got why she got so close to her. In this book I am told over and over about things Lexi *feels* but it always seemed like she was 'acting out' a role. In sum, Lexi Hamilton never felt real for me.
Another character that I couldn't get: Cole. We never learn ANYTHING from him. His past, why he is sent to guard Lexi, how on earth he ends up with all these feelings. I am sorry, but it never made sense for me. If you're a cold-heart killer (he does shoot up a lot of people in front of Lexi), you need a stronger character development. Why is he there? What's his story. It just felt terribly one sided. Also, his: "you must do such and such because I say so" gets old and boring. I disliked their 'insta-love', and this is something I sort of enjoy in my reading life. I think this book lost me with the unbelievability of the once - sided - romance.
Zeus was my favourite character and he never spoke (I guess this is hard... being a dog and all).
There are also lots of inconsistencies. One moment you're evacuating the building because it is being bombed... *kaboom* and then they merrily go back to the *bombed* building as it had never happened, and continue living there... uh?
On a positive note, I really liked this book's grittiness. There is lots of violence and kickassery. Again, I feel this book has lots of potential and yes, I am glad I read it. I won't however read the second instalment or I would recommend it as it is to anyone.
View all my reviews