Branded (The Forgotten Book 1)

Branded (The Forgotten Book 1)
Age Range
Release Date
November 16, 2021
Henry Murphy’s parents never told him he was from another realm. They couldn’t, because they have become as unaware as Henry. Everything was forgotten—memories siphoned away by the dark force that stalked them. For the last seventeen years, Henry has been living a lie. All those years of hiding have been compromised. Henry’s parents fled as refugees after stealing the location of the furnace—a source of power that would have allowed the Nekura uncontested rule over all life. But with their memories silenced, the Nekura have closed in on them unnoticed. The first warning was the screaming girl. After she broke into Henry’s high school classroom and screamed for him to run, she was hauled away and disappeared. The only friend Henry finds to help him is Charley, a strong-willed orphan girl with a fractured past. Henry is thrust into a reality he never knew existed and must fight against sinister creatures he cannot touch for reasons he doesn’t understand. What he doesn’t know can still hurt him, and it is hunting him down. Their only hope is the Light—a legendary force that bestows intangible power for those connected to it. Henry must uncover the shrouded memory of his family’s past and race to find the furnace before the Nekura tear his family apart and destroy both worlds in the process. Henry will learn the heartache of the forgotten, the joy of the reclaimed, strength beyond himself, and the unbreakable ties that bind family together.

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BRANDED by Joseph T. Humphrey is a YA novel in which Henry starts off with a perfectly normal life, his biggest stressor being whether or not he’ll get a baseball scholarship for college. All of that gets sidelined when one of his fellow students shows up to class in tatters, shouting at him to run. Everyone, besides his friend Charley, seems to believe the classmate was just having a mental break, but Henry can’t let it go. When he begins making his own inquiries into her safety, what he uncovers is something he never could’ve imagined. Not only is he from another realm, but there are deadly creatures after him and his family, who if not stopped, plan to remove all Light from the world.

The premise of this book is captivating. The Nekura, or monsters, that Humphrey has created are terrifying, and I love how different kinds are introduced throughout the plot, each time getting scarier and more difficult to defeat. The way the Light also develops and changes in Henry and his family kept me from being able to guess what was next, which made it an exciting action-adventure journey. Yet, it’s still interspersed with philosophical moments and quiet interpersonal exchanges, as it’s really about a family who is getting to truly know one another and themselves for the first time.

That being said, there were multiple times while reading that I found myself skimming through the description as it was unnecessary for understanding the action or the emotional arcs. Also, the conflict between Henry and Charley could’ve been more grounded to help us understand Henry’s perspective. Henry is pretty cruel to Charley, and considering her circumstances and the fact that it wasn’t fully deserved, it alienated Henry from me in the beginning.

Overall, though, BRANDED is a great novel for those who love reading about lands from the other side of the vail, a solid good vs. evil plot, found family themes, meaty backstory, and the belief that all is not as it seems. The story ends on a great cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to see how the author expands this world. With everything Humphrey brought to this first book, I could easily see this story morphing into prequels, sequels, novellas, and whatever else is in his imagination.
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