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Review: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

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?When a book has been pitched as a Hunger Games-meets-Pokemon crossover, people like me tend to get a little bit excited. Then when we finally sit down to read said book, people like me tend to get a little disappointed. And kinda angry, actually.

I think I knew from the very first paragraph that I was not going to enjoy this book. Bold statement, you say? Just take a look at the paragraph in question:

“I stare at my reflection in the pond and run my hands through the bane of my existence. For a moment, I seem victorious, my chestnut curls wrangled into submission. But when I drop my arms, the curls spring out, worse for the wear. I point an unmanicured finger at the water. “I hate your face.”

This is the heroine we are introduced to; a whiny, juvenile, twat who is more focused on her looks than anything else in her life. And that includes her dying brother and a hell-ish, Battle Royale/Hunger Games event that could easily claim her life. She is a complete bellend.

The story is set in the near future (?), predominantly in America (?), where an unknown disease is beginning to spread widely (?). As you can see, the world-building is second to none. Yes, that was sarcasm.

I hadn’t a clue what was going on, just that protagonist Tella’s family has moved to Montana to see if the country air will help Tella’s brother’s health improve (?), and Tella ain’t having none of that. The whole getting-to-know-you part of of Tella’s life story was rife with bitching. She pissed and moaned about every. single. fucking. occurrence. My hair is so shit, she moans. I miss living in the city, she wails. My brother may be dying but, woe is me, what I wouldn’t give to be able to indulge in some Feta cheese and kalamata olives while getting a mani-pedi with my besties, the vile cow spews.

An unfortunate stereotypical dumb, white teen, Tella’s priorities never cease to amaze me. Here is a girl who, in the absolute direst of circumstances, cannot help but think of appearances. She receives a mysterious invitation to compete in a race to win a cure for her brother’s ailment. Her folks act sketchy about it, try to get rid of the invitation, so instead of confronting them for answers she nicks their car and runs off to the race anyway. But not before packing up some beauty products!

“I can’t bear to go without taking a piece of them with me. That and my glittery purple nail polish.”

She is the absolute antithesis of a strong, female character. She’s not even a character at all; she’s just a collection of annoying traits combined with the inability to function as a successful human being. How on earth is this character supposed to prevail in a hardcore survivalist setting? Well, to be honest she’d snuff it first thing if it weren’t for all the men who keep rescuing her. Because girl power.

This book was clearly supposed to be a Hunger Games ripoff. We’ve got the same premise: teenage girl trying to save sibling by competing in a rather deadly event hosted by evil-ish governing forces unknown. We’ve even got the same kind of details: a pin/symbol of an animal, an Effie Trinket, an annoying love-triangle.
What we don’t have is the same kind of depth and grace that The Hunger Games possesses. The romance is ridiculously forced and unnecessary. The characters are vapid and forgettable. The plot doesn’t offer the same sense of urgency (although it does improve as the story continues) but oh my god what is with the MC?

She’s the kind of girl who’s not even a main character in her own story. She doesn’t do a damn thing. She cries and vomits at anything that grosses her out. She cannot defend herself worth a damn and relies on men to save her on multiple occasions. She does not contribute any ideas, knowledge or expertise to her group of contenders during the race. The only reason she is still alive at the end of the book is because she banded together with much more capable people who are entirely more worthy of the prize. The only reason. Despite my prayers.

Not only was this ripoff an insult to The Hunger Games, but it was also an insult to Pokemon and Digimon, which it also ripped off. It was bloody obvious that the author thought to herself “hey, I like Pokemon/Digimon, maybe I’ll get some creatures with powers to hatch out of eggs and fight each other for the glory of their respective masters”. We’ve all entertained that idea at some point during a novelling process. But whereas pocket and digital monsters make sense within their own worlds, they made absolutely no sense here given the big reveal we get at the end of the book concerning the origin of the race. They were intended to be a cute little add-on, something for the MC to form a connection to and show that she’s special because she’s the only contender who treats her pet nicely. Like in the Pokemon games where the Tree Professor of whatever region you’re in congratulates you after you complete the league, saying that you won because you treated your Pokemon with kindness, friendship and love. As opposed to everyone else, for some fucking reason.
I didn’t buy it in Pokemon, and I didn’t buy it in the story and unless some serious shit goes down in the sequel, these Pandoras were just annoyingly gimmicky and meant nothing to the overall plot and denouement.  The biggest disappointment is that they weren’t even Pokemon-esque creatures. They were animals from our world. With powers. You know, foxes, elephants, fucking llamas. With weird powers to help the contenders survive. The lion breathed fire.

This book was a joke. An uncomfortable reminder that people can still become successful by ripping off books by much more talented authors. It didn’t have one single quality, not one tiniest morsel I could pick out and say “actually, I liked that”. Go read Divergent if you’re hankering for more Hunger Games; despite my immense issues with it, it was far, far better than Fire & Flood.



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