Genre: Young Adult/fantasy
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Brimstone Bleed series
How did I get this book: Bought
If you haven’t heard of this book, it’s about a girl named Tella. Her family have just moved from Boston to the middle of nowhere because her brother, Cody, is sick. Tella is going insane cooped up away from civilisation until one day she finds little white box on her bed. Inside is an invitation for the Brimstone Bleed, a deadly race with one hell of a prize – the cure for any illness.
I wasn’t sure about this book at first, I’m not gonna lie! Tella is…spacey, to say the least. She’s the person you’d least expect to survive in dangerous terrain. Or survive a fall down the stairs, if we’re being really brutal here. But she does grow on you.
Once you adapt to Tella’s…unique commentary, it’s a good book. The beginning is a bit slow, introducing us to Tella’s life and her family. There’s a bit of intrigue going on here, namely to do with her parents. After that, it picks up quickly and it’s not too long before Tella is clutching her Pandora in the middle of a jungle with a hundred other competitors around her…and some of them might just kill to win.
One of my favourite things about this book is the twists. There’s one mid-way through that made me gasp out loud when I first read it. Even better, when you read it again you can see all the little hints and foreshadowing carefully woven throughout.
There’s quite a variety of characters and most of them are fleshed out realistically. There’s a slight issue with the bad guy, as I find he’s a bit punch clock villain? But aside from that, everyone else has motivations and personality. No one really is black and white good or evil. They have their motivations and soft sides and loved ones. For the most part, I find them to be well rounded people, which I love to see, especially in YA. I’d like to especially point out Harper (beautiful goddess that she is) and the twins, who entered the race to save their sister.
Tella is marmite. You will love her or hate her. To be honest, I’m not entirely certain IRL that she would survive to the end (we have that in common as I would trip on a vine and die five minutes into the forest if I were in her position) so that might irritate you. She does gain allies that do a lot to help with her survival but at certain points, especially at the climax, Tella saves herself. We’re used to heroines who’ve had training or a special talent that allows them to survive these kinds of challenges. This just happens to be a story of an ordinary girl who winds up in extraordinary circumstances. She needs some development but what decent character doesn’t? She’s got a long way to go if she wants that cure. She’s already starting to stand on her own two feet so I’m hopeful.
Surprisingly, not awful. Guy is very focused and tough but actually not a dirtbag (which seems to be the route a lot of YA authors take these days.) He’s respectful to Tella and helps her before they even become allies. He eventually opens up over the course of roughly six weeks (the race takes place over three months.) It is a bit sudden, as YA usually is, but I think I can understand the reasoning behind it. They’re in a high pressure environment where they could die at any moment. I am curious to see where they go from here, as Tella herself acknowledges it’s a very new relationship and she doesn’t know what will happen after the Brimstone Bleed. Probably won’t be your favourite aspect of the book, if you prefer more of a slow build.
Could do with more world-building. I am hoping to get more of this in Salt and Stone. We get a location but very little about time period. A lot suggests it’s not far off from our time but they also mention a lot of incredible technology and inventions. The Pandoras – the aids each competitor gets for the race – are beyond fantastic. They’re genetically engineered animals, with special traits and an inbuilt instinct to protect and help their competitor. I loved seeing the wide variety of animals used for this and the different abilities they have. I want to see more of them and how they were created in the next book.
This is probably the one major flaw I can find in this book.
Pros: Humour, twists, quick pace, the Pandoras are freaking awesome
Cons: Slightly cliche villain, lack of world-building, it’s a wonder the heroine isn’t dead already
Favourite character: Harper