Branded was quite a thrill to read! It’s got a great, angsty forbidden love and a plot chock-full of intense action. It’s dark and gritty, and the authors hold nothing back. This is a young adult book, but there is death, gore, and murder, so just beware! If you think this is just a simple, clean dystopian, you’re going to be in for a shock. There is an incredible amount of violence in this book, which I really enjoyed, because the authors really make me feel for the main character, and for her pain.
In the world Lexi Hamilton lives in, there exists The Hole, the place where people are sent to when they are accused of displaying one of the seven deadly sins. Lexi is wrongfully accused of Lust, and is forced into The Hole, and is branded with a blue band around her neck. The blue represents lust, and there are different colors for each deadly sin. These brands dehumanize those who are marked, and even worse, The Hole is absolutely filthy. It’s dirty and grimy, and the people live there do anything and everything to survive, including killing others.
It’s so, so painful for Lexi to be taken to The Hole. She has an awful, tragic past, and even though she’s a good person, she’s closed off. Her heart can’t take any more pain in her life, and I felt so much for this girl. She’s been dealt a bad hand in life, but being sent to The Hole might just ironically be the best thing that could have happened to her. Lexi is assigned a guard, a gorgeous man named Cole. He’s tough on Lexi but he still treats her infinitely better than other guards would. Lexi and Cole have to spend time together, especially since they live in rooms right next to each other. Lexi sees him only as an untrustworthy guard working for the evil Commander, but she slowly starts to see the good, kind side of Cole. He has a good heart, he’s loyal, and he’s got a dog named Zeus!
Cole is such a sweetheart! He’s cold in the beginning of the book, and doesn’t see Lexi any differently from the other prisoners in The Hole, but as he gets to know her, he falls for her goodness, for her huge heart, and for her incredible courage. Because no matter how bad her situation is, Lexi always moves forward. Some things might bring her down, but she’ll get back up. I really admired Lexi, and I adored Cole for his sweet actions and words.
“You’re beautiful. That’s the problem.” He shuffles his feet and shifts his weight uncomfortably. “They can’t stop looking at you.” He glances up at me for a brief second before locking his gaze on something behind me. “And I understand why.” The words come out so soft I can barely hear them.
Sadly, the romance sort of tapered off during the second half of the book. I mean, I still really wanted Lexi and Cole to get their happily ever after, but it just wasn’t the main focus of the story anymore. At least for me it wasn’t. In the second half, I didn’t feel the same intensity between Lexi and Cole as I did in the first half. And the book shifted more towards the rebellion against The Commander and his soldiers. There’s some awesome action scenes, but things moved a little too fast for me near the end, so I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I wanted to.
Branded has some twists and turns that kept me reading, and for dystopian fans, or even romance fans, this book is worthy a try. Cole is the sweetest, and Lexi is such a tough heroine. I give a 4 for the first half, and 3 for the second, so 3.5 hearts!
20 ebooks of Branded (mobi) Open Internationally
5 signed print copies and picture of Cole (US only)