First, thanks to Scholastic and Edelweiss for allowing me to read an e-galley of this. I got to read the first one, Fire and Flood, the same way, but then won a physical copy of it. And I will have to own this one as well. Once again Victoria Scott has written a wonderfully complex story, with great characters, lots of feels, and a ton of action! If you haven’t read the first one, there will be a few spoilers probably, sorry about that. But I’ll try not to really post any for this book.
Tella has been in a race, reminiscent of not only The Amazing Race or Survivor, but also of The Hunger Games. The first two parts of the race were fire and flood, the desert, and the jungle. All the contestants that made it are now getting ready for the last two parts of the race, salt and stone, which will be the ocean and the mountains. Tella and her “crew” are trying to work together as much as possible, even though there can only be one true winner, the true winner will get the cure. The cure that is why everyone entered the race. They all have someone in their family that has the sickness. The sickness that we learned in the first book was given to them because they had something to do with the original people who created it. The race, or the Brimstone Bleed as it is called, is set up to be cruel. They’ve had to kill other contenders, or their Pandoras, not to mention surviving heat, lack of food, water, and other other environmental disasters.
I have to admit that in my mind I couldn’t figure out how in the world they could race in the ocean. Well, they use boats, duh. There are only so many boats, and only so many of those, if they make it to the next base camp, will be allowed to go on in the race. The boats seem to be all supplied with good and other normal every day supplies like toiletries. Now there is a difference in the boats. There are some very fancy and speedy yachts, and then there is the pirate/old fashioned ship that Tella and her crew end up with. Along with her normal crew of Guy, Olivia, Braun, and Jaxon, there a few new contenders who end up on their boat. Cotton, a tall attractive boy that Tella doesn’t really remember seeing before this part of the race. Willow, a young girl, who kind of reminds them all of Harper’s daughter. And then Mr. Larson, an older gentleman who isn’t very friendly, and also kind of sexist. And shortly into their trip, Harper shows up! The boats hit a major storm shortly after they set sail in the race, and at first Tella is sure that is why they were given all the conveniences this time that they hadn’t received for the first two legs of the race. But soon they will find there are other things they must compete with to make it to the base camp. And not all of them will make it, not all contenders, and not all Pandoras.
It seems like a long time between the ocean and the final part of the race, but many of the contenders need the recuperation time. And the people running the race have even more torture in store for them before they begin the final leg of the race. They tell them that all Pandoras have the choice in whether to participate in a challenge which will allow their contenders to have a full 24 hour start on the ones whose Pandoras don’t participate. Sounds good, right? Only the challenge is that they must fight another Pandora, to the death. Tella (and myself) can’t stand to watch this. She begs her Pandoras not to participate, and she’s got a few, her original, Madox, Titus’s Monster, and now Rose, an iguana that Tella saved at the last base camp. But her Pandoras only want to help her win, and so they enter the competition. But events begin to take a turn against the creators of the Brimstone Bleed when the match-ups don’t all go as planned, and the Pandoras all seem to want to team up with Tella when she is threatened, and possible revolt. One contender will end up dead from this confrontation, but it will change how the rest of the Pandora matches go. And then they will move on to the mountains.
The mountains are of course cold, so now they must find food, and shelter if possible. And all of the Pandoras have endured things that have caused them to become weaker, or have other issues. One of their crew will turn out to be a traitor, even if in the end they can’t actually follow through with their revenge. And in a way, it is really like The Amazing Race when it is so important that they listen to all the directions, or they won’t make it to the finish line first. And once that final base camp is reached, they now have some individual challenges to overcome in order to try to be the one who finishes first to get the cure for their loved one. Tella has two chances at it, as Harper plans to give the cure to her if she wins.
One final thing we learned from Guy is that the first five finishers will all be offered jobs in the Brimstone Bleed competition. And Guy and Tella plan to take those jobs, and take down this race from the inside. To stop the people getting sick, and get the cure to those who needed it. Well, they don’t get to that in this book. We finish with basically the end of the race. Immediately following this I had to go look online and see that the author said there is a possibility of a 3rd book. Whew! This story is sooooooooo not over!
As I said, again I just loved the story. All the different things it reminded me of, both real tv reality shows, as well as fictional reality shows. I loved the characters. I loved that Tella stood up for herself with Guy, and that she realized that while she may have been needy at the beginning, she grew and become stronger throughout the different parts of the race. And she insisted that Guy also see that and not keep treating her as fragile. And unlike you might see a normal fictional guy accept it, he had to work through it and she proved it to him with many examples. Great story. Get ahold of it when it comes out, and read it! And if you haven’t read the first one yet, go get it now and read it so you’re ready for this one.
One last thing, about the cover. I wasn’t real happy with the change in covers, because I really liked the first one’s cover. But I’m okay with them now. And I did see that this one has a cover that matches the first one, at least it shows one on Goodreads.