Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.
Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win. The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me. I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
New Adult Dystopian with a forbidden romance. Spoiler-free review.
“I love you… I don’t want you to ever question it. I’d give up my life for yours. That’s how much I love you. Don’t you dare ever doubt that.”
Fast paced, action-packed and emotionally charged, Branded is a phenomenal Dystopian debut with a forbidden romance that will capture your heart!
The writing was strong, I fell in love with the characters and was totally wrapped up in the world. There was a forbidden romance (and I mean REALLY forbidden), a swoon-worthy hero, a strong heroine and a super evil bad guy. Now, I don’t normally read Dystopians but this one had me HOOKED!!!
In a society where Sinners of the seven deadly sins are branded and incarcerated, everyone’s lives are always at risk. It didn’t matter than Lexi was innocent and it made no difference what she said. She was accused, condemned and thrown into The Hole – a hellish, filthy, self-contained prison with no rules and no way out.
“I don’t want to die, but at the same time, I wish I were dead.”
She was assigned a guard – Cole. But there was more to him than met the eye. Something about him was different than all the other guards. Something in him was good. And, as she slowly acclimatizes to her new life in the Hole, they grew closer and closer.
But in the Hole, relations between Guards and Sinners is punishable by torture and death. It is final, it is brutal and it is the world they live in. But… they’re still falling for each other. Hard.
“I never planned on falling for you. You were just an assignment. But it just sort of happened and now… There’s not a single thing I would change about you. When you smile, my entire world stops. All I see is you. I need you.”
I don’t even know where to start with how much I loved this! It was a total change of pace for me because I never usually read Dystopian books. I mean, I read the Hunger Games, but that was it. I guess I just generally prefer books that focus more strongly on romance. But sometimes you want more than just a romance, you know? You want a bit of an adventure… something thrilling and different that’ll sweep you away into another world and Branded delivered that.
It was a non-stop roller coaster ride. My emotions were all over the place. Fear. Disgust. Betrayal. Love. Swoon (yes, swoon is an emotion). Despair. Hope. It had my heart in knots and I loved every minute of it!
Now I know the story is classified as mature YA but let me tell you, it is gory, gruesome and gritty!! Certainly not for the faint of heart! I swear, there is this one flashback scene that I’m going to need therapy after reading!! But, that being said, that grittiness was so effective in pulling you right into the world. The world itself was gritty and you felt it.
I swooned pretty hard over Cole. In fact, let me take a minute here to shout this: I LOVE COLE!!!! The forbidden angle gave the romance such a thrill to it. You could see him fighting his feelings for her. Being so badass and protective of her. But there was so much more at stake than just their feelings. There were just so many layers dictating all of their actions as they lived under the constant fear of punishment by death simply for the crime of falling in love. Mess up and die. Fall in love and die.
“He takes my face into his hand, and reassures me. “So outside of these walls, we can’t stand each other.”
But you see their bond grow and it’s scary because you’re both rooting for their relationship and just terrified because you see first hand the consequences of a relationship between a Guard and Sinner. There was so much swoon and so much fear!
“The last thing I want is for you to be afraid of me. But I want you to trust me. I need you to trust me.” He sighs and I hear the pain and confusion in his voice.
“I don’t know why and it scares the hell out of me.” He swallows hard…
Part of me screams for him to run for his own safety, but I don’t want him to move. My heart begs… Please stay with me. Forever.”
Lexi was a strong, wonderful heroine you couldn’t help but sympathize with. She was a fighter at her heart but everything in her life just kept kicking her down. I loved seeing her strength grow over the course of the book.
“You won’t break me if that’s what you’re worries about.”
He walks over, places one arm around my back, and lifts me…
“After this, I’m not sure anyone could,” he whispers.“
Now, relationship-wise this book is YA in that there is no sex in it. But let me tell you, this is one of those stories where the connection between the hero/heroine is so strong that the descriptions of their actions doesn’t need to be graphic for you to FEEL it. Like there’s this scene, after a fight and he’s just washing blood off her hand (not even something romantic per say) but ohhhhh myyyy God did it make my heart clench! Seriously. I FELT it.
“Shhh…” He grips me closer to his body and then softly whispers in my ear, “I’m about to kiss you, and once I start I won’t be able to stop. Just thought I should warn you.”
And this whole relationship is developing in the midst of a world with daily gun fights in the streets, explosions, rapes, murders, injustice and a world under the dictatorship of an evil Commander.
The book is not all dark and grit though. There were definitely happy moments that shone through the darkness showing that even in this pit of absolute despair, there were still people with good in their hearts! But holy hell!! There were also a few scenes that just rendered me speechless with how nightmarish they were! I loved that there was a bit of everything in this book though. The plot was full of twists and turns and was fast paced enough that you were always reading about something new and yet took it’s time enough that you were able to develop a close connection to the characters.
And I just want to point out that Branded has THE awesomest dog EVER in it. His name is Zeus, he belongs to Cole (though he’s pretty sure he belongs to Lexi) and I seriously adore him and could not review this book without sending him a shout out.
Don’t forget though that this IS a Dystopian. There’s fighting, battles, rebellions, and a whole story outside of the romance but for those of you who are hard-core romance fans, Cole and Lexi’s relationship will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens to them.
The ending is thankfully NOT a cliffhanger!! They were together and safe, for now at least. Their story is far from over but my heart can rest easy for now while I eagerly await book #2.
Fans of the Hunger Games absolutely MUST read this but know that, in my opinion, Branded knocks The Hunger Games out of the water!
Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki are an author power team to watch out for!
I can’t wait for more from the Sinners series and to find out what happens next with Lexi and Cole!
“Just leave me,” I whisper in his ear.
If you’re still on the fence, you can Read Chapter #1 to get a feeling for it.
- Cole – Casting #1, Casting #2
- Lexi – Casting #1, Casting #2
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ABI KETNER & MISSY KALICICKI
Since you guys are a writing team, I’m so curious about what your writing process is. How do you divide it up? Do you work together on each scene or each write different sections of the book? Tell us how it works!
Hmmm how two authors work together. Usually one of us will begin writing. Then whoever it is, sends it to the other person who adds, changes, or comes up with new scenes. Then that person sends it back. Eventually it makes its way to the editor who then suggests more things, and we start the process again. It sounds more complicated than it is. As far as who does what, Abi is stronger with dialogue and I’m stronger with action. But in all reality, there are times when we switch or when our writing is so intertwined that you can’t tell who is writing what anymore. It works for us though. 🙂
What was the inspiration for the book and what made you both decide to start?
Well, we used to meet at a local Italian restaurant to catch up. Inevitably, we’d begin talking about the books we were reading—what we liked, disliked etc. Then Abi came up with the idea of branding people with the seven deadly sins. She asked if I wanted to write with her and that’s how it started. It was just something fun at the time but when we finished we thought, hmmmm, maybe this is a story other people would want to read. So here we are!
Do the characters surprise you as you write and change your story lines or do you guys always know exactly where the story is going in advance?
A little of both. When we started, we didn’t really have a plan. We just wrote and went where the book took us. When we got serious about publishing, then we started meeting on a regular basis to discuss our characters—what we wanted them to look like, personality traits, language etc…
What are your plans for the series right now?
We’re currently writing book 2 and we’re also tossing around ideas for other novels. 🙂 Overall, we’re just enjoying the ride!
Thank you both for taking the time to chat!
Elizabeth M says
I’m not normally one for dystopian either, but this is REALLY well written, and…I dunno…I’m totally kinda curious about this now!! Thanks, Aestas 🙂
Yeah that’s exactly what I thought too – dystopians are not my usual thing either but the fact that it was so well written and the whole “forbidden romance” angle really caught my interest so I just had to post it! 🙂
I cannot wait to read Branded. I love love love that kind of book. 🙂
Al Diaz says
I think this would be the very first dystopian I’ll read. Let’s see how it goes.
It was great reading the first chapter. I am not really much of a reader but this read has definitely caught my attention. Great job Missy!! Cant wait for the book release!
Yara Greathouse says
I’m intrigued! Can’t wait for the release!… and BTW – cool cover!
Christine LaCombe says
thanks, this sounds interesting
Oh, I love dystopian novels! Thanks! 😀
Karen Schevikhoven says
The first chapter sounds so good! I can’t wait to read it! Is there an actual release date yet? Thanks for the giveaway!
Megan Hand says
This sounds SO freaking good! I’m excited for this one!!!
Abi Ketner says
Thank you everyone!!!! We are so excited…. release date we’re hoping the end of june. We are still finishing the final edits. As soon as it’s all ready to go-we will let you know. Your support means the world to us! Thank you!!!!
Thank you for the first chapter!! eeee! It sounds so good! Can’t wait until it come out!!
Oh, goody! I’m doing a blog tour on this in July, I think. Good to know you gave it a thumbs up!
Wow I love the sound of this one. I was originally on a book blog tour then it was cancelled and I didn’t have the dates free so really disappointed, am definitely adding this one to my wishlist. I love dystopian books!
I am REALLY looking forward to this one!! Sounds different from anything I’ve read, but am so excited to read it!!
Yvonne Simpkins says
Thanks for the giveaway. Sounds like an interesting read.
Thank you for the giveaway! I am so looking forward to this book!
Elizabeth Tardencilla says
I’m sooooo excited for this book!!
Oh, another giveaway, and I can’t say no to it. ~guilty trip~… NOT. 😉
Sounds like a great read… cant wait.
Great review!!! I’ll definitely read it 🙂
I just finished this today and I loved it! Can’t wait for more 🙂
This seem very interesting so excited to read this book!
Jess W says
Sounds like a fantastic book.
Can’t wait to read it 🙂
Sara S. says
Great giveaway 😉
Krisztina Ferenc says
Thanks for this international giveaway!
Great review, I”m really curious:)
Morgan Kleiss says
This looks really good! Thanks for the giveaway 🙂
Nicole A. says
Thank you for the giveaway!! I absolutely love your blog. =)
Can’t wait to read this one!! Thanks for the awesome giveaways Aestas !
Wendy Roberts says
Great give away.
Debbie Szabo says
Thanks for the great giveaway!
Charice Mehring says
Love the giveaways and book reviews.
Kelly M. says
Picked this one up for $.99 looking forward to reading it soon.
Thank you for the giveaway! I am so looking forward to this book!
Cristina Riquelme says
Thanks for the giveaway!!! 🙂
elena k says
this book looks great and very interesting. thanks for the giveaway
Shai P. says
Ugh I’m gonna pray to the rafflecopter gods to pick me for the love of books?! I really want this to be added in my bookshelf. Must have! Thanks aestas for the chance♥
Stacy F says
Sounds like an awesome book, great giveaway! 🙂 Thanks
Megan Stietz says
Thanks for the giveaway!!! <3
ItsyBitsy Booksy says
looks really good…!!
Looks so good!!!
Thanks for the giveaway
Kissa Mil Xu says
I enjoyed this book! Great giveaway! 😀
Joy H says
Thanks for the awesome giveaway. I hope I win 🙂
Great review!! Sounds like an awesome book!! Thanks for the giveaway!
Lacey T says
So excited to read this!
I’ve had this on my TBR list! Can’t wait to read it!
Kim Cree says
I absolutely loved this book!!
Thanks for the giveaway!
The book sounds great if I don’t win a copy I’ll just have to buy one!
Great Giveaway 🙂
I don’t normally go for YA, but this one looked pretty good so I one clicked it and can’t wait to find out if it’s as good as it sounds!
Valerie Rhodes says
I think the book will be a great read! Thanks for the giveaway..
Michelle Downing says
Thanks so much for the chance to win! I just got an e-copy and can’t wait to start reading!
Holly U says
I’m reading this book right now, and I really like it. 🙂
Wen Cast says
Wen Cast says
Kim U says
FLOVE this book!!!
Read this and loved it!! What a great recommendation Aestas; thank you! And thanks for the great giveaway – as always!
Kim B says
Just finished & loved every minute of Branded! Thanks for the awesome giveaway & the great reviews!
Thanks for making an international giveaway!
Thank you for the great giveaway!
Vannah Batista says
I can’t wait to read this book! I’ve heard AMAZING things! CONGRATS on the release! 🙂
Amy muscat says
Great giveaway!! 🙂
Can’t wait to read it.
Sounds like a wonderful book.
Thanks for the giveaway.
Anna Estep says
It sounds really good. I’ve added it to my TBR.
All I can say about this book is that it was the bomb-diggety. I LOVED this book. One of my favorites, I can not wait to read the next book in the series. Thank you for the giveaway.
Lindsay Turpin says
I just started reading this book and am loving it so far, but I have to ask, did anyone else have issues with the editing on their Kindle version? Not grammar, but where words are missing spacing all together? In some parts, I swear a string of 5 words would be together at one time, or a word would be split between two others. Its frustrating!
Abi Ketner says
The file was corrupted!! They should have sent you the updated version…. If not let me know you email address and I will send you the new one. I am so sorry about that.
I’m excited to read this. It’s on my TR pile. Thanks for the giveaway!
I cannot wait to read this!!! I have been waiting so long for this to come out, it is going to be a great read. I know it!!
I loved this book and would love to have a PB copy! It was amazing and i can’t wait for the next book to come out. Great giveaway. Pick ME! ^_^
Kyla Patton says
This looks awesome! Have been wanting a copy of these! Thanks for the giveaway!
Deb Liu says
Read the book last night. I really liked it, it held my interest throughout the book. I read it on my Kindle and had not formatting issues. Can’t wait to find out more about Lexi and Cole. Thanks for the giveaway.
Very beautiful post! Thank you for the chance.
Look forward to reading. Thank you for the giveaway.
Catherine Carr says
Such I great book, I couldn’t put it down!! And at the end I spent like 3 days before reading anything else, hoping for a second book!!
Bonnie Hilligoss says
I love Dystopian and Branded sounds a little different from the norm, which is perfect. I think I will go get an ecopy now and hope to win a signed one! Thanks for the chance!!
Wendy V says
Sounds like a great story. I’ve had mixed feelings about dystopian novels but this sounds very appealing. I hope to win!!!
Love dystopian settings! This looks great and I think I’ll love it! Thanks for the great review and chance to win!
Love th sound of these books…thanks for the giveaway!
Mary Lowery says
Great giveaway! 🙂
Thank you for the international giveaway 🙂
Amy Pollard Woolard says
I have these on my TBR list! I would LOVE to win this giveaway! Thank you for the chance!!
Mary Bilowus says
This books looks great. Thanks for the giveaway!
Gaby Metivier says
I love dystopian stories and I’m looking forward to read this one 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway!
Steffani Geary says
I cannot WAIT to read this book. It is currently #4 on my TBR list (I blame this blog for the length of my list btw). Thanks, once again, for the awesome giveaway. One of these days I will win one! I will not give up!
CRISSY MACKEY says
Thank you for the giveaway. The book sounds amazing and I would love to win a copy.
Added book to my tbr, can’t wait to read!
Can’t wait to read this book 🙂
Anna-Marie Coomber says
Thank you for the chance to win this book xxxxxxxxxxxx
Gloria Elena Gonzalez says
Thanks for the giveaway!
I’m excited to read this one! It’s in my ASAP pile.
This sounds so awesome, thanks for the giveaway
Thanks for the giveaway 🙂
Shai Villanueva says
I really want to read this. Thanks for the giveaway!
Diana Doan says
I love dystopian book, and this one sounds amazing! Thank you for the recommendation and the giveaway 🙂
Jennifer Taylor says
Thank you for the amazing giveaway.
Sibel S. says
Thanks for making an international giveaway! I really want to read this!
Mary G says
I’m so excited to read this one! Great review, it just made me more excited to read it! Thanks for the giveaway. Have you read Blood Red Road yet? If you haven’t, then you must. It’s another awesome dystopian! Check it out.
I hope I win!! :o)
I am so excited with this book since you recommended it!
Denise Ramos says
I loved reading this book!! I am so glad that you recommended it!!
Jennifer Trevino says
I look forward to reading Branded! :0
I’m so looking forward this book!
Thanks for the giveaway!!!!
Sam Stettner says
Michelina D says
I have heard amazing things about this book. Got my ebook, crossing fingers for the signed paperback 🙂
Thank you for the giveaway!
Maria Theresa Santos says
i hope a win..
Wendy Roberts says
Thanks for the give away!
Camila Lorusso says
I love this kind of book. I bought the kindle version and it is next on my tbr, but I would LOVE a paperback copy!!! 🙂
Thamiris Tavares says
I really liked the first cheapter and when it ended I was left wanting more. I like dystopians and it’ll be nice to read a new adult one, since I think most or all of the dystopic books I’ve read are YA. Thanks for the giveaway.
Karina L. says
The book sounds great! 🙂
awesome giveaway 🙂
Roxana Yoss says
I couldn’t get enough of this book!!!
Tania Ryder says
looks like an exciting book cant wait
Thanks for the giveaway!! *fingers crossed*
Tess Halim says
Thanks for sharing your awesome review and for the giveaway too! 🙂
Thanks for the giveaway 🙂
Kassandra Johnson says
I loved these books and would love a signed copy of them. Thanks for a chance.
Can’t wait to read this.Thank you for the giveaway Aestas. Love ya XOXO
Thanks for the international giveaway!!
Rafflecopter name – Rose Lennart
Like always a great giveaway thanks 😉
Thanks for an awesome giveaway Aestas! I’d love check the book out!
Kim Perry says
Great interview! Sounds like a good book! Thanks for the giveaway!
Wow! What a wonderful interview and a spectacular story!! Can’t wait to read it!
This is NOT my typical read at all! I read hungar games bc my sister-in-law forced me!! I did enjoy that. Honestly I don’t know if I wasn’t gifted this book if I would have read it. HOLY CRAP are you kidding me I LOVED this book. Aestas I too think I need therapy for a praticular scene. Infact I mentioned it to the author. OH yeah I loved this book so much and it had my head spinning so much I HAD to email the authors and tell them so! I forgot to metion Zeus to them!! He was adorable you are right. Best. Dog. Ever. Please PLease give this book a chance! It is Exhilarating, exciting, disgusting, beautiful, and shocking! It hooked me I gave it 4 1/2 stars
So glad you loved it!! 🙂