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.
To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.
Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home.
Brutal and savage violence.
Everyday is a fight for survival.
But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the hole.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton and this is my story.
In a world where all accused of committing one of the seven deadly sins are thrown into the hole, no one is safe. Lexi Hamilton is innocent, but her pleas won’t save her. She is condemned, then branded with a blue tattoo to symbolize her ‘lust’, and then thrown into the hole; a brutal, violent place with no rules and no escape.
Lexi happens to be assigned a full time guard in the hole who will remain with her for the duration of her day. Finding pleasure in torturing the sinners, guards are uncompromising, inhumane, and have no value of human life. Lexi should be terrified by the constant presence of her guard, Cole, but when she sees the goodness within him, she cannot help falling for him-hard.
I find that YA book trends come in cycles, at one point it was all vampires, and now it is dystopians. With the abundance of all of these dystopian books, I naturally grew tired of them, finding them repetitive or not fully solved within the generic trilogy style so many of them are published as. Maybe it was the fact that I haven’t read any dystopians this year, but Branded felt like a breath of fresh air. This novel reminded me of why I was so obsessed with dystopian books at one point; it was fast-paced, had an intriguing premise, and a fantastic romance!
First thing I have to put our there is that Branded is not for the faint hearted. It is gory, gritty, and has some gruesome scenes which made me put down the book for a few moments and try to un-think what just played out in my head. Although I’m one of those people who really dislike violence, I didn’t mind it as much in this book, because the world was gruesome and gritty, therefore, their needed to be brutal violence. Also, I think the savage scenes worked well because they fully launch you into this world and force you to recognize the cruelness in it.
We follow Lexi who is your typical strong female protagonist. When the story first begins she is attempting to commit suicide, but when the government comes to put her in the hole she discovers that she does truly want to live, so she can fight back. Throughout the novel we receive flashbacks of Lexi’s past and what drove her to almost taking her life, and when we finally got the full picture I was quite horrified. At the beginning of the novel especially, Lexi is a fragile, broken creature, so it was fantastic to witness her develop strength and courage. Lexi is a fighter at heart, but she was kicked down so much she forgot that she could stand upright.
I absolutely loved Cole! As a guard, he was the perfect forbidden love interest. As he and Lexi’s relationship grew, we could see his conflicting emotions and his attempts to put distance between the two of them. This truly showed that he did love Lexi, and from this point on I adored the development of his and Lexi’s relationship, although it kept me on edge because I was always worrying that someone was going to discover their relationship!
This is going to seem really random and irrelevant, but I had to mention Cole’s dog, Zeus, in this review. Zeus is a goofy guard dog who is honestly the best literary pet ever. I almost never laugh when reading books, but I heartily chuckled a few times in this book and it was because of Zeus, so I felt it was my duty to discuss his awesomeness!
As a dystopian book, there of course are fight sequences and rebellion against a cruel government. This of course made the book a page flipper, but if you get as invested as I was, Lexi and Cole’s relationship is enough to keep the pages flipping.
Overall, I highly recommend Branded even if you are not a fan of dystopian books. This book took me by surprise and kept me engaged the entire ride. It is action packed and will take you on a roller coaster of emotions!