Review: Branded by Abi Ketner and Melissa Kalicicki
50 years ago, the Commander came into power and removed all who opposed him. He created a system for a pure race and identified the seven deadly sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. Anyone accused of having any of these sins are instantly arrested and branded with a color that represents the sin. They are thrown into the Hole, a place of death and cruelty.
Lexi Hamilton was wrongfully accused of Lust and branded with blue on her neck. Now she toils in a hospital under harsh conditions. Alone and tormented with a bad past, she struggles with the horrors she faces daily. Branded a “whore” and a “slut”, the guards and other citizens prey on her constantly. Her only hope and savior is Cole, her guard.
When Lexi and Cole began to develop feelings for each other, their lives are in danger more than ever. One wrong misstep or if anyone reports them, they would be tortured and then killed. Not only that, bombings and shootings stemming from discontent began occurring very frequently. Unrest grows and their future hangs in a balance. It seems as if their story can only end in tragedy.
I loved every bit of Branded! The story is filled with blood and gore, injustice and cruelty, violence and abuse. It is a very dark story frequently filled with despair and hopelessness but the spirit of the fighters are uplifting.
The story is packed with action. Barely a chapter goes by without something important happening. The constant tension builds up to a nerve-shattering climax. There were big surprises even right up to the end of the story. Branded is the type of book that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until you finish it.
Branded is a stellar example of why I don’t like to judge a book based on whether it is self-published or not. I’ve read quite a few Dystopian books as Dystopia is my favorite genre, and Branded definitely ranks as one of the best, if not the best. In fact, if given a choice between The Hunger Games and Branded, I would choose Branded hands down. It is just such a thrilling book that can make you feel frustrated, annoyed, worried, and a ton of other emotions at the same time.
The romance in Branded is exciting and dangerous. I have read quite a number of forbidden romances but this one trumps them all. This forbidden romance is a matter of life and death. All it takes is a wrong look, a wrong gesture, for Lexi and Cole to be killed. I would describe the romance as a minefield full with explosives that could detonate at any time. It isn’t one of the strong points in the book, but it contributed to plenty of the drama.
Lexi is a very strong girl. She has gone through so much, yet manages to fight back with grit and determination. She is strongly opinionated and compassionate. She gives more than she receives. Cole is her
knight guard in shining armor. He isn’t much of a prominent character and we don’t really know anything about his background or family, but he’s a good influence on Lexi. I would have loved it if his character had been explored deeper, though.
I just have to mention Zeus! Zeus is Cole’s Great Dane. He is such a sweet, adorable character! He is really extremely protective of Lexi (funnily, he would take Lexi’s side in any tiff between her and Cole) and very fond of ripping apart sheets and pillows. He has this playful and protective personality that you can’t help but love.
The ending is bittersweet. You’ll either shed a tear or smile. Although there will be a sequel, there’s no cliffhanger in the ending and I’m glad for that.
For some reason, I was continually reminded of the Holocaust when I read Branded. Certain circumstances were different, but there were similarities, like… a dictator with with an iron-fist control, cruel guards who can do what they wish, and inhumane living conditions. Despite these similarities, the storyline leaves no doubt as to the era of the story and the originality of the plot.
Conclusion: I can’t wait for the sequel! I’m looking forward to reading more of Lexi and Cole’s relationship development and the imminent danger they will face. I can definitely see problems being more dangerous and deadly than they were in Branded. The sequel will be interesting, that’s for sure.
About the authors
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the authors. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”