Review: Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki


Branded (Sinners #1) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Dystopian / Young Adult
Abi and Missy Books (June 27, 2013)

Rating: D+
Heat: Sweet

Heroine: Lexi Hamilton – Sinner, Survivor 
Hero: Cole – Guard, Protector






With its very original dystopian setting and fascinating storyline, I had hoped Branded would be better than it turned out. Unfortunately, this story did not work for me.

Lexi Hamilton has been branded a sinner for all to see around her neck. Lust is her sin, even though she is innocent of her crime. She’s been sent to the Hole, where all the sinners go to live the rest of their lives. The Hole has now become Lexi’s own personal hell and home. The Commander created the Hole when he came into power fifty years ago. In his crazy mind, he thinks the seven deadly sins are to blame for the downfall of society. So, once a person is accused of one of the sins, there is no judge or jury, the final judgment is guilt. The Hole is a dirty, ugly, and violent place where the sinners must work the job they’re assigned or be punished. Most of the sinners have lost their humanity over time in a harsh world where it takes smarts and strength to survive.

Lexi was assigned to a guard named Cole the moment she arrived. Cole is not like the rest of the guards, who can be just as terrifying and dangerous as the sinners. Something about him is good. He hasn’t been tainted by the Hole yet and still believes in humanity. But he’s still been led astray by the Commander, judging the sinners by the brand they wear. The more he’s around Lexi, the more he starts to see her as an innocent person and not someone whose been branded as a whore. And the more time they spend together, the closer they grow. Eventually they confess their feelings for one another, even though they know it's forbidden. And, if found out, they would be tortured and killed. This doesn’t stop them from falling for each other. But in order to be together, they must survive the Hole and fight for their freedom.

Sounds pretty darn good right? And, it does start out good. I was enthralled and excited, at first. But by the second half of the story (or sooner), that's when the story fell apart.

One of the main issues I had with this story is that the romance happened too fast. The feelings were rushed. The authors could’ve convinced me that these two fell in love so quickly if there was better build up and development. Instead, it was a bad case of insta-love. Falling in love quickly can work, if it’s well written. This is a dreaded case of "telling not showing." I wanted to understand and feel what they were feeling, but I never felt impacted by this forbidden relationship.

My next issue is the character development. It wasn't consistent. Everything changed once they confessed their affections to each other. I didn’t feel like I was reading the same characters anymore, especially with Cole. I thought Cole turned into a pathetic love sick puppy, and Lexi was leading him around by a leash. I was completely appalled by how much Cole tolerated from Lexi. I wanted the tough and strong Cole back that I met in the beginning. And, while Lexi kept trying to remain strong during the story, which is admirable because of everything she’s endured, her actions contradicted her words. She came across as weak and immature, especially when she didn't stand up for herself when she had the chance to show how strong she really is. I didn't feel like there was much character growth with her.

The pacing slowed down for me by the second half, then the ending felt rushed and unbelievable. The dialogue was immature and there were a lot of details about the story that felt unrealistic and were explained badly. I almost gave up but I kept reading with the hopes the story would get better. It never did and left me feeling frustrated and annoyed. I've decided not to continue the series.


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