Branded (A Sinners Series #1) - Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
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. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.
Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.
Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
I was contacted by the authors and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Branded, as I already had Branded on my wishlist naturally I said yes as I loved the premise of the book and it sounded like something I would love.
Branded is the story of Lexi Hamilton and her fight to survive in a compound known as the Hole after being falsely accused of lust. In this Dystopian society when people sin they are branded with whatever color their sin is represented by, literally branded around their neck like a tattoo, in Lexi's case her brand is blue for lust but from the very beginning Lexi protests her innocence. Once in the Hole she is handed over to Cole, a young guard in the Commander's forces who comes with a sidekick, Zeus the Great Dane. Luckily for Lexi Cole isn't like the other guards who are cruel, vicious and wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of Lexi given that her sin is Lust and most others in the same situation work as prostitutes.
Sent to work in the hospital as a nursing assistant she meets Sutton, a doctor who is obviously connected to Lexi in some way given that he seems to know far too much about her. Escorted to and from the hospital by Cole and living together means they become close quite quickly, their relationship rapidly develops into something far beyond guard & sinner and in amongst all the action is the story of Lexi and Cole trying (and failing) not to act on their respective feelings.
The main theme of the book seems to be romance, with a Dystopian twist, which is fine if you like your books heavy on the romance side but I wanted to know more about their society, how it worked and more about the Seven Deadly Sins. The action in Branded is virtually non-stop, almost from the beginning of the book. Lexi is an easy target, both for other Sinners and the guards, and they spend most of their time either running or hiding. Things get interesting when the character of Bruno is introduced and she starts learning self-defence which comes in handy in the second half of the book when her training becomes far more intensive. I really wanted to like Lexi but I found it really hard, on one hand I felt awful at everything she'd gone through previous to landing in the Hole but sometimes her behavior made me want to scream! She veered between victim and heroine frequently, she thought nothing of ignoring warnings about not doing things/going places she's not meant to but fell apart when faced with the consequences.
Cole is still as much a mystery at the end of the book as he is at the start, we don't really get to know much about him beyond the fact that he's a guard, he still has some faith left in humanity and he has a great dog! I'm hoping we maybe get to hear more about Cole's life in another book as it really would flesh out things out knowing even just a little of his back-story. Hands down the best character in the book though was Cole's dog, Zeus the Great Dane and from someone who is not a huge dog fan that's saying something! Zeus brought something else to the book, a little bit of humor (I fear for any more pillows/sheets/blankets, he seems to have a thing for shredding bedlinen!) and after a while becomes fiercely protective of Lexi, a good thing as sometimes she needs all the protection she can get!
Overall I did like Branded but I was left wanting more by the end of the book, more detail, more insight into the characters and more depth. I'm glad I read it and I will definitely look out for the second book in the series which is apparently going to feature Lexi's brother Keegan more prominently. He was another character I wasn't sure if I liked or not so I'm intrigued to read more about him.
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Many thanks to the authors for providing me with an e-ARC for review!