Review: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: young adult sci-fi, contemporary fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: Book 1 of the Fire & Flood series

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?

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The absolute most notable part of any Victoria Scott novel, what I know I can always count on, is a large amount of sass, and Fire & Flood delivers. It's not even that her characters are super snarky or sarcastic; she just has a way of maintaining a tone full of attitude for the book as a whole.

I've read a handful of F&F reviews, and so far, it seems like everybody is hating on Tella. Let me tell you why this is so ridiculous. All these reviews are saying things like she's shallow and selfish and silly and naive. Um...duh? Let's be real. How many of you weren't shallow and ridiculous when you were 17? I know I most definitely was. I'm not saying we're all that way 24/7, but it's absurd to expect a teenage girl to now worry about things like her hair or having a cute pair of flats in case of a CBE: Cute Boy Emergency. I rather like Tella because she's real. The unrealistic protagonists are the ones who don't worry about such things. Katniss may be a badass, but she is not at all like the teenage girls I know. Tella is silly but I recognize her. Also, you can't be serious if you think she's selfish. She leaves her family behind and signs on to participate in this potentially fatal race across hostile environments against competitors who are bigger, better, faster, stronger, more prepared than she is....and she doesn't give up. Plus, I know Victoria. She creates these wonderfully, beautifully flawed characters so she can give them somewhere to work to. Protagonists without flaw are boring because they can really only go down from there or risk being too perfect. If Tella were better at the Bleed, I'd dismiss her; however, because she's just the slightest bit shallow and definitely not made for the race makes me root for her since she's clearly an underdog.

I really love the secondary cast of characters as well. Guy, obviously, is pretty swoony, even if he's also pretty hostile most of the time. He's a man on a mission, and I think he's a good guy who can't help caring about the ragtag group no matter how much he wants to stay focused on his mission. I like Harper too, but I'm really confused about her. Sometimes, the writing concerning Harper was really unclear. I'm especially confused by a revelation about her toward the end of the book. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it just didn't make sense to me. Ransom and Levi are brilliant, and I adore them. They're like an homage to Fred and George. They certainly lighten the tone when things threaten to get really heavy. However, I also cried the most when it came to these two. Caroline and Dink are pretty intriguing. I hope there will be further explorations into their situation in book 2. I appreciate the late introduction of Olivia and Jaxon partway through the book. They add a sweet dynamic to the group and also accounted for some pretty intense action. Braun is...seriously, he's my favorite. I can't wait for book 2 because I have a feeling he and Jaxon are going to be high-larious together. And finally, there's Titus. He's a good antagonist. Every time I read a scene with him, I wanted to shower after. Seriously creeptastic.

I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention one of the most important characters who isn't even a person: Maddox. He's such a sweetie. Maddox's presence in this book gives me a case of the warm fuzzies. His and Tella's relationship is honestly the best in the book. Everyone else, even Guy, has their own motives that don't include Tella, which means they can't all be trusted 100%. Maddox is pretty consistent. Also, he's adorable. I do think he may be a little too...much, but also love how badass he can be. I very much hope to get more background info on him in the next installment.

As for the world, yes, it's not the most original idea of all time, but I like what Victoria has done with it so far, and I'm excited to see where she's going with it. Book 1 is all about surviving the race. The conflict and the antagonists were pretty straight-forward. Book 2 is shaping up to be more than survival, and the conflict is going to be much more complex. Instead of defense, I have a feeling it's going to be Tella and the rest of the group trying to go on the offensive. One of my only complaints is that there's supposed to be a big shocking twist, but I had it figured from the beginning so the surprise was utterly lost on me. However, that may just be me because I talked to a couple other readers who missed it.

Overall, I think this is a gripping first installment in an adventure-laden series. I like the characters, I'm invested in the story, I love all the action, I love the slivers of romance. Each of these elements is balanced and developed well. I'm really excited to see where Victoria takes us in the second installment!

“If you are hearing this message, then you have successfully completed the Pandora Selection Process. It also means you are now at the official starting line.”

Around me, Contenders whoop with excitement. Seriously? They’re about to plunge into a wild jungle, and that brings them happiness? Once again, I realize how out of my league I am. I don’t even have a change of clothes, for crying out loud.

“As you may have realized, you are on the outskirts of a rain forest. This will be the jungle part of the course. You will have two weeks to arrive at the jungle’s base camp. You will find this base camp by following the path of blue flags.”

Contestants glance around, immediately looking for the first blue flag. As for me, I’m watching the taillights of the semi and having a massive coronary.

“If you are the first to encounter a blue flag, you may remove it, but you may not remove the stake it is attached to. Doing so will result in immediate disqualification.”

I wonder why anyone would want to remove the flag to begin with. No one else seems concerned by this.

“While the Cure will be awarded to a single winner at the end of the last ecosystem, we will bestow a smaller prize for each leg of the race. The prize for the jungle portion will be monetary.” The woman pauses dramatically. “I’d like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win.”

That’s it? That’s all she’s going to say? Because it seriously sounds like she’s wrapping up. So why aren’t I running after the trucks? Why am I not chasing after my only way out of this jungle like my life depends on it? I know the answer — though I wish I didn’t. Cody would do this for me. I am his only hope. I have to believe his cure exists. My only other option is to return home and watch my brother die. If I could even get back home.

I glance around frantically, looking for someone to tell me what to do. The Contenders have formed a long line, the kind you see at the start of a marathon. A few yards down from where I stand — I see him. My throat tightens when I realize his cold blue eyes are locked on me. It’s the guy from the Pandora Selection Process. The serial killer–looking dude who I thought was going to kidney punch me. He glares in my direction like he might take this opportunity to finish what he never started. I raise my hand in a small wave, hoping it says something like: See? Look how friendly I am!

He lifts his own enormous hand. For a moment, I brighten. I think maybe that — even though it looks like he hates every fiber of my being — he’s going to wave back. But he doesn’t. He holds up two fingers — his pointer and his middle — places them under his eyes, and then points in front of us.

Oh no, he didn’t. I think he basically just told me to pay attention. I’m still processing this when the woman’s voice rings in my ear.

Book Links:
About the Author:
Victoria Scott is a teen fiction writer represented by Sara Crowe. She's the author of the Fire & Flood series published by Scholastic, and the Dante Walker trilogy published by Entangled Teen. Her books have been bought and translated in eleven foreign markets including the UK, Turkey, China, Poland, Germany, Australia, Israel, Taiwan, Brazil, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

Victoria lives in Dallas with her husband and hearts cotton candy something fierce.

Author Links:

Open to US & Canada. Entrants must be 13+. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST February 18. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page. Good luck!

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  1. Interesting! I would be best in mountain I think for I have muscular legs and enjoy hiking and climbing! I think desert would be the worst because deserts are so undesirable.

    Elizabeth @ Redhead Reader

  2. NOOOO! this giveaway needs to be international! I want to read this book so freaking bad, and your review + that awesome excerpt only makes me want to read it more!

    Awesome review!

  3. I totally agree with your review. Fire & Flood was a powerful first installment to the series, and I really can’t wait to see what happens next.

  4. I would do best in the ocean, because I was a competitive swimmer for many years. The worst would be mountains, because I would be afraid to climb and would probably just sit around and cry about it.

  5. I would be the worst in the mountains and the best at the ocean.

  6. Mountains would be the best and ocean would be the worst........
    I have heard such mixed things about this book, glad you liked it!

  7. I would probably die in all of them since I am not an outdoor person at all, but I might survive in the mountains or jungle. I would kill over for sure in the desert. I HATE hot weather. I live in the south and it gets too hot here for me. I also live by the ocean and while it's not horrible, I still don't like to go there either. I sound like such a whiner. I like to stay inside and read. ;) Thank you for this giveaway. I want it so bad. I'm such a huge fan of Victoria's. I would read her grocery list happily. Thanks!

  8. I would probably do best in the jungle. I would definitely do worst in mountains as they can be extremely cold and I hate the cold.

  9. I think ocean would be best for me, and the mountain would be the worst. Brrrr, cold!

  10. OMG, I am a child of the prairie Greetings from Oklahoma, USA crystalbluern at onlineok dot com

  11. I would like a beach on a tropical island

  12. I live near the Appalachian mountains and like to hike so I would choose mountains for the best and desert for the worst.

  13. I would like to think I would do well in the jungle or the mountains. Worst would have to be the desert or if I'm just stuck floating around in the ocean. I need a place where I actually have a semi chance at surviving and many places to hide.

  14. Sounds AMAZING!
    I would choose desert for worst and mountains the best. I'm use to mountains and extremely cold weather so I think thats the only play I'd have a chance to survive.

  15. I'd probably fail in all environments but have the best chance in the ocean because I consider myself a decent swimmer. I really want to read this book, thanks for the chance at this giveaway!

  16. My best would most likely be a forrest because I enjoy the wilderness. The worst would be the ocean because I don't swim very well.

  17. I am not sure what environment I would thrive in better. (Probably none of them!) They all have their ups and downs. I think I might have the best chance in the ocean. I am hoping that I would eventually make it to land/island. I think the worst for me would be the desert. Very little shade and it is hot with little water.

  18. I absolutely HATE the heat so desert is definitely out. I think I'd do ok in jungle. I think I'd do ok in either jungle or ocean. But knowing me, I probably wouldn't survive either way!

  19. Best, ocean. Worst, desert. I freaking hate being hot and it gives me migraines.

  20. I'd have to go with mountain because there are probably less bugs. Desert would just be terrible, ugh, death.

  21. I think I would do best in ocean. That's the environment I like the most. I think I would do worse in jungle with all it's heat, humidity, rain, and weird animals!

    This sounds so interesting. I like the sounds of Tella. I like teenage girls characters that act like teen girls and then develop over time (TEAM SANSA).

  22. I would do best in ocean, but do worst in a desert! Thank you for this amazing giveaway! :)

  23. I think the desert would be the worst. I hate the heat/humidity. The ocean or the jungle would be better, I think.

  24. I think this book sounds really interesting, almost like the amazing race with more incentive.