Author: Victoria Scott
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Young Adult
Format Read: Paperback, 305 pages
Publication Date: 6th March 2014 by Chicken House (Scholastic Australia)
Synopsis: “Time is slipping away….
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?
Victoria Scott’s breathtaking novel grabs readers by the throat and doesn’t let go.” (Taken from Goodreads)
Fire & Flood follows a girl named Tella, who is on a mission to win a cure for her brother’s sickness. The novel opens up with Tella and her family having moved from Boston to Montana, in order to escape the city and get some fresh air. With no link to the outside world in Montana, Tella is surprised that a mysterious blue box turns up in her room one day. When her parents start to act suspiciously around the box’s content, Tella is determined to find out what’s going on, leading her on a journey to participate in the Brimstone Bleed.
I’m definitely in the minority here because while Fire & Flood was an interesting read, it was also absolutely ridiculous. This is mainly due to my dislike for the main character, Tella, who I found to be stupid and so vain. I get it, she’s a city girl … but so am I. Her obsession with her looks – even before the race – made her extremely obnoxious and not the selfless character that the author obviously wanted her to be (from all the times she tells herself “I’m doing this for my brother”).
From the first chapter, I couldn’t believe that this character could even have a chance of surviving this secretive race. Tella tells us that her parents have always “chosen wallets over manual labour”, meaning they don’t cook. Or as little as possible. If her parents can’t even cook, a pretty basic skill, what are the chances of Tella even being able to catch her own meal and cooking it during the race? Pretty much slim to none … meaning her chances of survival aren’t that great. Secondly, when Tella finds out about the race and is told that it will be held over four different ecosystems, she decides to put on a pair of yellow flats. Honestly, I don’t even know what to say to that … woman, you’re going to be trekking through a jungle and later most likely hiking through a mountain. Who in their right minds would put on flats for that? Tella, your stupidity is astounding.
Not only is she extremely vain, Tella is also very judgmental.
“The last girl I see, I want to strangle. […] She has cream-coloured skin and a body that belongs in a magazine – the kind for guys, not girls. I hate her with everything I have as she laughs her perfect laugh and tosses her perfect hair and crosses her to-die-for legs. […] We could be friends, I realize, if I weren’t so overwhelmed with the urge to end her.” (pg. 100)
Mind you, Tella had only just come across the girl and her group and this was the first thought she had. That she wanted to strangle her because she was pretty. This girl, Harper, is everything that Tella is not. Harper is strong, had leadership qualities and is focused on her mission. Tella on the other hand swings between admiring Harper for being awesome, and hating Harper for being awesome. Then she goes on about being a selfless person because ‘she’s doing this for her brother’. Who are you really trying to convince, Tella?
While on the subject of selflessness, the Brimstone Bleed is essentially a race where participants are racing to win a cure for their sick family members. Meaning they’re acting out of love and selflessness – they’re meant to be have these qualities within them, otherwise, why would they bother? This is why the character of Titus disturbed me so much. Titus is the cliched villain in the book, who is basically psychotic and likes to hurt people. How in the world did someone like him put aside his own needs to help someone else? To risk his life for someone, because I just don’t buy it. Titus felt like someone that had to be in the book for the sake of having a villain and some action scenes.
To be honest, I liked the side characters a lot more than the main characters in this novel. Especially Harper, who I could actually respect and was kinda bad-ass.
Moving on to the romance, I think I did enjoy it a little bit. Kinda. It developed slower than insta-love but it didn’t exactly take a genius to figure out that that relationship was being steered in that direction. Guy, Tella’s romantic interest, started off has a stoic person that seemed to hate her guts (unexplained). Tella follows him for the first few days of the race because she obviously has no idea what else to do or how to survive. He discovers she’s following him, and ditches her. Luckily for Tella, she bumps into Harper and her group, and then Guy suddenly turns up again and joins them too. He goes from hating Tella to slowly opening up to her, and then all of a sudden, there’s a spark. Then he starts being all macho and over-protective of her and just … sigh. What happened to the stone-cold guy who never explained why he hated her? He suddenly turned into this:
“Guy’s voice is as smooth as milk.” (pg. 266)
Yes, you read right. Milk. Bet she’s never seen curdled milk.
And seriously, don’t even get me started on the actual race. The Brimstone Bleed never really explains how it works to the contestants but everyone jumps at the possibility of obtaining the cure. I dunno about you, but I would try my best to at least gain some background information on a race that has the word ‘bleed’ in it. And what the heck is the point of the race anyway? What are they trying to prove? It’s only barely explained to us at the end of the book, and I do not accept that explanation at all. Because it makes no sense. Is the point of the race for some people to die? Then why have the option for contestants to go home at the end of each leg? And why have weird people chasing the contestants with spears when they’re so close to base camp? What in the actual heck are the rules? Seriously, it frustrates me so much not knowing and having it glossed over.
While the book frustrated me to no end, there were some parts I enjoyed. The pandoras (very similar to Pokemons) were adorable, especially Tella’s pandora, Madox. I loved their interactions together, and the fierce protectiveness Tella had for Madox. Tella, while insanely jealous of humans of the female gender, is actually an animal lover which I admired. She stood up for the pandoras, especially when psycho Titus was abusing them. Brownie points to her for that.
Unfortunately, while the book was entertaining, there were just too many things that brought the overall rating down. The biggest problem was the race itself, and when a book’s plot is based on this race, then that’s a huge factor to get wrong. I hope the next book will tie up ALL the loose ends brought forth in Fire & Flood, and that the title of the book will begin to make sense. Because honestly, what does Fire & Flood even represent?
Thank you to Scholastic Australia for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.