Review | Fire & Flood [Victoria Scott]

Title: Fire & Flood
Author: Victoria Scott
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 305 pages
Source: Gift (from Ashley @ Falling Down the Book Hole)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Survival
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Synopsis: 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?

I got this book as a surprise present from my best friend and finally got around to reading it last week, in her little note that she sent with it (seriously, she sends me books in the mail so they show up as super awesome surprises on my doorstep, is she not the best?) she mentioned that it had been described as a mix of Pokémon and The Hunger Games so she thought it would be something I’d like.  Now, that would definitely be something I’d be in to, and it would be awesome, but that’s not quite what this book is.  Sure, there are some superficial similarities, but don’t dive in to this read expecting the same kind of depth and backstory that we got in THG.

Instead, Fire & Flood focuses on Tella’s growing determination to save her brother, and by growing I mean starting from the ground up – when the book opens she is the last person you can see winning a race like the Brimstone Bleed, and at first even she knows this, her own stubbornness being the only thing keeping her going.  As a reader you may need to do a bit of the same if you’re the type who thrives on backstory, seeing as the history behind the Brimstone Bleed and the Pandoras is hardly touched on throughout most of the book and when it is finally addressed it’s pretty anti-climactic considering the stakes and circumstances of the competition itself.  Once the story reaches the point where you think you’re just about to be let in on the details the book wraps up, and seeing as this is the first in a series it’s less of the expected cliffhanger and more of a three-chapters-short-of-finished fizzle.   Despite the limited backstory I still found myself caught up in the action, and while I found Tella to be a bit underwhelming the ensemble of secondary characters (humans and Pandoras alike) made up for it in spades.

Things I Loved♥ The Pandoras – As someone who played a lot of Pokémon as a child (who still occasionally plays a lot of Pokémon) I love, love, loved the Pandoras.  Is there anything cooler than having your very own animal sidekick that basically has superpowers?  I don’t think so.

♥ There is a wicked little twist right around page 240 that comes out of nowhere, I don’t want to spoil but it adds a delicious touch of horror to the story and will make you see one of the secondary characters in a whole new light.
Things I Liked♥ Guy – He’s the epitome of “tall, dark, and handsome,” he’s definitely the “strong and silent” type, and he’s got scars that suggest some kind of “tortured past” and yet I still can’t help but like him, clichés and all.  I think a lot of his characterization in this book is filtered through Tella’s attraction to him so I’m hoping that once the cloud of lust settles we’ll get to know him better.

♥ Interesting Secondary Characters – From Harper turning the blonde beauty queen stereotype on its head to Jaxon’s protectiveness when it comes to Olivia, they’ve all got things about them that make you want to know more about their lives before they became Contenders.

♥ The occasional reminders throughout the book that Tella is in fact a teenage girl who really does not belong in the middle of the jungle, or the desert for that matter.  Her teenage vanity is somewhat overwhelming in the early chapters but it diffuses nicely throughout the rest of the book, surfacing every once in a while as a reminder that the Brimstone Bleed is very much not normal and none of these people should really be in this situation at all.
Things I Didn't Like♥ There are several instances where the actions of characters towards the Pandoras can definitely be categorized as abuse which is something I have very strong feelings about and am very much not okay with. So, if this is something that you would be extremely uncomfortable reading this may not be the book for you.

♥ Weak Backstory – As I mentioned above, the history behind the Brimstone Bleed just isn’t there for the majority of the book so the reader is left with a whole lot of questions: Why is this race happening?  Who is organizing it? How is this entire operation being hidden from the general public?  I’m a world-building girl, I don’t just want to know backstory I want to know everything, so this was a pretty heavy flaw for me in particular.  I will say that since the significant details are revealed to the reader at the same time that they are revealed to Tella the frustration she feels about not really knowing what’s going on is very much shared, and perhaps that was the intent.
Give Me More♥ Braun – He seems like one of the good ones who fell in with the wrong crowd, so I’d like to see him becoming a part of Tella’s little band of survivors.

♥AK-7 – I want to see this particular Pandora stick around because it’d be interesting to see how it behaves around Tella and the other Contenders, considering it originally belonged to Titus.

3.5 Rating

If you’re interested in hearing what comes next after Fire & Flood check out Victoria Scott on Twitter (@VictoriaScottYA), she’s been posting some pretty perfect descriptions of Guy from the next book, Salt & Stone.

My first review here on the blog is complete!  I fully intended to have it posted much earlier than this but as you can see I tend to get a little wordy, and I’m also not so great with planning (what is a schedule?).  I know for a fact that I’ll never be able to get all of my thoughts out in my reviews so if you’ve ever got a question or just want to fangirl about a character drop me a comment and we’ll continue the conversation!