Tella and her family have moved to the middle of nowhere because of her sick brother. Tella is bored, and sometimes resentful, but then she remembers why they are there and she manages to keep it in perspective. One day, a blue box arrives with very obscure instructions. She sees her father try to destroy it but it appears indestructible. There is a secret in that box . . .
Tella has been invited to participate in a race known as The Brimstone Bleed. One winner will win a cure to any disease. So of course Tella signs up, she loves her brother and who could resist an opportunity to save someone you love? The race takes place over 4 terrains, with the first two being covered in Fire and Flood. Their is thrilling action, character growth, a little bit of romance, deception and backstabbing, peril and death, and so much more. It’s a little bit of Hunger Games with some His Dark Materials thrown in as each contestant is paired with a genetic enhanced Pandora that has special powers that may help them during the course of the race.
Tella is an interesting main character. She is girly (she sometimes really laments the inability to get a nice manicure in the midst of the race) and yet strong and formidable when she needs to be, well mostly. In fact, Tella is a very realistic depiction of an ordinary girl plucked from her every day life and thrown into a life or death race: sometimes she whines, sometimes she is overwhelmed, but ultimately she keeps pressing on and rises to the occasion because what choice does she have. This, for me, was one of the best parts of the entire thing: Tella. In her complexity and contradictions she is real, relatable, and you can’t help but root for her.
F&F is also really cool because although there is a guy – whose name is conveniently Guy – and they do have an attraction to one another, even Tella periodically questions whether or not the attraction is because of the dire circumstances they find themselves in or if they would still be attracted in their real life. And this is not the driving force of the narrative, but an additional element. In fact, Tella forms an alliance with several members of the race who are pretty fully fleshed out and they all have meaningful interactions and back story. Plus, there are the Pandoras, which are pretty cool.
One of the elements that initially bothered me about F&F was the fact that Guy seemed too good at the race, which was very convenient and sometimes took me out of the story, but eventually there is a good discussion about that which reveals important things and everything is golden.
The bad guys are epically bad, there is an interesting reveal about the race itself, and the action is intense and engaging. There are some uniquely new approaches to some familiar themes in current ya, the main character is uniquely realistic and relatable, and the action is nonstop – readers will be very engaged and satisfied, chomping at the bit for the next book. Highly recommended, I seriously enjoyed this book.
Coming February 25th from Scholastic. ISBN: 9780545537469
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.