Also, it is an author that Trisha Wolfe (my homegirl who wrote the amazingness that is Fireblood, Of Silver and Beasts and The Darkest Part) recommends and one that Victoria, the author calls out in the acknowledgements.
We get a taste of the kind of life Tella has been living at the first, and we get to see her relationship with her brother. They banter back and forth but you can tell that Tella does it to keep his spirits up and that is their love language to each other. But regardless of how much Tella wants her brother to get better, she is bored and having a hard time appreciating the country being raised in Boston. I can't imagine the transition from city to country like that much less they don't have computers or anything like that there either.
When she finds the device that ultimately invites her to compete in the competition for the cure, the Brimstone Bleed, she thinks she might be losing her mind. Or it could be the best thing that happened to her... Or a joke. But as readers, we know its real. I saw a shift in Tella in the moment she realized it too, and decided to fight for a cure for her brother. That showed me so much into her character.
As she is discovering what she faces she is really showing her feminine side, and I love it. She doesn't lose her love of nail polish, being self conscious about her looks, and that is awesome. She is strong in all of the ways that matter, she wants to save her brother. But she also wants to try to find the good in others, and she hates the nature of the game. She doesn't like violence, and she has a kind heart. She has a fierce will to survive and she wants to band together with others even knowing it might be hard when the time comes to separate. But all of these things make her such a complex character and I admire her so much for that and Victoria, the author for having the courage to write a character that's girly but still hardcore.
The animal companions give such a unique edge to the story. I mean just when many are thinking that dystopias and games pitting people against one another for survival has been done every way possible, Victoria writes this brillant twist to the story. I don't want to talk about them too much because I don't want to spoil anything. But besides the complexity and amazingness that is Tella, the animals are one of my favorite aspects. They are so individual and distinct (though I will admit with the letter/number names and the sheer number of them at times, I had a hard time remembering which letter/number combo went to which animal). Besides their differences they also demonstrate a lot about the people with whom they are working. For instance, with Tella, she is the most attached to her animal, and she cannot stand to see another animal being hurt or taken advantage of. Tella cuddles with hers, sings to him, and tries to share her food and water. I think that this develops and even deeper bond with them than him just being assigned to her and to help her out.
The pacing of Fire and Flood was amazing. There was always something going on. New challenges for Tella, new people coming into her world and heart, as well as discoveries she is making about the world that she lives in, the sickness that has afflicted her brother and the Brimstone Bleed's origins and current purposes.
The secondary characters that surround Tella stole my heart as well. Harper was so tough, Caroline and Dink a mystery, and Guy, oh my goodness. He started out such an enigma and really stayed that way throughout the story. I can't wait to learn even more about him. He's so strong, the silent type and a natural leader. He is smart about survival and everyone in their party looks to him for advice and trusts his guidance on how to survive the parts of the race.
What is so hard about this group of companions is that they are all contenders. They have someone they are fighting for. Someone they love who is sick and will die or continue to suffer without the promised cure--which only goes to one person. So while they become attached to each other and help each other, there will eventually have to be some hard choices made, and even knowing that, it is hard to keep from liking them and them from forming some pretty strong bonds.
The romance in this one didn't really surprise me, but that is more than okay. I loved how it was a slow developing and that they questioned it like they rightly should in the circumstances. But I think that it made them stronger, giving them more reason to keep going and yet another person they cared about to fight for. There are some moments that take my breath away they are so sweet or there is so much of that good tension and chemistry going on.
The ending, oh my. I think that it stopped in a relatively good spot, although I was def not ready to stop reading about Tella, getting answers about the world, guy's past and what would happen to these people and animals that I came to care so much about. I am certainly continuing this series, and anxiously awaiting the copy of Fire and Flood #2 to be in my hands.
Bottom Line: An amazing dystopia with a unique and fascinating spin with the animal companions and a feminine but hardcore amazing main character.