The Fire & Flood Series
by Victoria Scott
The Overview: [I’m only including the overview for the first book to help avoid spoilers for those who haven’t yet started it] 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?
There are a lot of things about this series I really like – the fact that the plot revolves around a competition (which always sparks my interest), the constant change of settings as the characters raced through different ecosystems, and the animal companion “Pandoras” that each contestant received at the beginning of the race. Any one of these would have prompted me to pick up Fire & Flood, so I just consider a bonus that all of them are present. I also liked Victoria Scott’s writing voice, even though it was a bit heavy-handed to start out with. She’s really cheeky, and made me laugh several times throughout with her humorous, semi-unconventional approach to storytelling.
So, while there were many things I enjoyed about the series, I have to admit that it required a strong “just go with it” attitude and definitely would not hold up to close scrutiny: the characters sometimes jumped out of character or acted inconsistently with past behavior for no other reason than to advance the plot, the framework for the race itself (and the people running it) felt underdeveloped, the settings, while exotic, were a bit under realized, and there were occasional issues with visualization, where time lapses were unrealistic, spaces and objects got bigger or smaller, and characters and Pandora’s all but vanished from scenes until they became relevant again.
As you can see, there were a LOT of issues, but they oddly didn’t seem like a big deal to me while I was reading, maybe because the things I liked about the book were done well enough to compensate. It occurred to me after I was done reading that having inconsistencies within the plot, while not ideal, means there is ample opportunity to surprise your reader. And surprised I was – these books definitely took some twists and turns you don’t see very often in today’s cookie-cutter YA novels. THAT if nothing else might make this series worth reading because it made them unique.
Overall, I liked the first two books enough to want to finish the series. They struck a good chord with me and I admit I was surprised at how forgiving I was willing to be. It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to have a full arsenal of writing strengths to be a successful author and to produce entertaining books – you just need to do what you do best to the best of your ability… sometimes that really is enough. Where Scott was most successful, in my opinion, was creating a story that was a lot of fun to read – that’s hard to do with than a dystopian genre, but somehow she managed. Fire & Flood probably wouldn’t be my first recommend of the genre, but I feel it has enough positive attributes to entice a lot of readers. If you do pick it up, take my advice: just go with it. :-)
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