Fire & Flood #1
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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?
Fire & Flood is thrilling and action-packed, the life and death situations accompanied by no shortage of humor to ensure we're pulled into Tella's world mentally and emotionally as she fights for a way to save her brother's life. Tella's sense of humor is a pleasant surprise, something we're not really expecting given the gravity of the premise, but it's an aspect of the story we find ourselves extraordinarily thankful for when it catches us slightly off guard in the moments we need it most. Tella's entrance into the Brimstone Bleed happens quickly, preventing us early on in the story from truly understanding the seriousness of the race itself until death is suddenly bearing down on us in the wilds of the jungle, and from there things for Tella and the rest of the contestants only get darker. As a result, Tella's witty one-liners delivered in the intimacy of her own internal monologues are like a warm hand holding our own, letting us know this situation has not yet gotten the best of her and giving us the strength we need to face down what we know will be increasingly difficult to endure.
Tella is an easily lovable heroine, someone whose aforementioned dry humor is a balm to the deep wounds decorating our hearts as the race continues, and whose unrelenting dedication to her older brother has us in her corner from the very beginning. She has moments where the pressures of the race start to overwhelm her and her mind wanders to the possibility of taking the out offered to contestants at the end of each leg, but all she has do do is repeat her brother's name to herself and she finds her strength renewed. She's not a gifted survivalist in any way, making it very easy for us as readers to put ourselves in her shoes, and she's thankfully not above relying on others to help her find her footing, fully acknowledging she needs help now and then to overcome the challenges the race puts forth.
There is a romantic thread woven through the dangerous fabric of the Brimstone Bleed, but its not a relationship that steals the spotlight from race itself, rather it pops into prominence with perfect timing just when the weight of the challenges start to take their toll, allowing our hearts to feel the rejuvenating warmth of human affection before we're returned to the cold reality of survival. Guy is a little tricky in the early stages of their relationship, oddly averse to Tella for reasons we can't quite comprehend, and while we never learn exactly why he didn't want to partner with her initially, he does slowly warm to her (or more accurately, is slowly worn down by her endearing moments of social awkwardness) and they become a couple we're rooting for to defeat odds that are overwhelmingly stacked against them.
Those more inquisitive readers who prefer a lot of backstory as to how something like the Brimstone Bleed came to be might find themselves a little disappointed throughout, the history of the race something held just outside of our reach for majority of the book. Toward the end however, Ms. Scott does grant us some much needed understanding, and while the reason for the race's creation seems just a touch far-fetched even in a fictional situation, the story and characters more than make up for it. This is lightning-quick and emotional read, tears threatening to spill over in the final chapters as the second leg of the race wraps up, but a determination that mirrors Tella's own thrums through our blood and tempers the sadness as we look forward to the next installment.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.