Twenty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadliest sins were the downfall of our society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.
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.
I’m happy to say that Branded was a pleasant surprise to me. It is one of the good self-published novels out there! The story is set in a dystopian world, where the “Commander” controls everything with the help of his guards. Nobody is allowed to conduct any of the seven sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride). If anyone is caught — or even suspected of — conducting sinister behaviour, the guards will track him/her down, brand the sinner with the appropriate colour representing that particular sin, and force him/her to live in the “Hole”. Once in the Hole, sinners do not have any rights at all. Guards treat them like crap (for the most part) and they are stuck having to work jobs chosen by the Commander until they are deemed to old and useless to the system.
Branded begins right in the action of Lexi getting chased down and taken by the guards, where she is then forced to become branded and has to live in the hole. All for a crime she did not commit. Lexi is a very weak character at first. She does not do well around violence and has no means of protecting herself. Slowly, though, throughout the novel, Lexi grows stronger and stronger. But, she definitely goes through her fair share of traumatic incidences first. I liked Lexi, for the most part. Near the end of the book, though, I thought some of her decisions were bothersome and I couldn’t figure out why she let a certain someone treat her the way he did, when she clearly didn’t want him to. She needs to learn to stand up for herself!
Cole is Lexi’s guard and, eventually, her love interest. Guards are not allowed to fall for — or have any kind of relationship with — the sinners they protect/guard. But, as it turns out, Cole cannot help himself. I liked Cole as well. He is a strong character and really cares about Lexi. Though, I thought he fell for her a little too fast and a little too easily, especially considering all that he was risking.
I found Branded was very romance-heavy at times, especially in the middle of the story. It was a bit too focused on the romance, considering everything that was going on outside of the love story. Now, I do enjoy romance in a novel and typically don’t like novels that don’t have any romance in them, but with a book like this one — with the main story being about this corrupt government and trying to overcome it — I like the romance to just be a side-story to the main story. Does that make sense? Also, it may have bothered me more due to the fact that I wasn’t really able to connect with Lexi and Cole’s relationship for some reason. Something about their relationship seemed off to me and I didn’t find it to be believable. So, that was disappointing.
I’m left with one big question at the completion of this novel that bothered me a lot throughout: I don’t understand why the guards are allowed to get away with sinning…why don’t they get in trouble, or branded, for it like everyone else?? It didn’t and still doesn’t make sense to me. But, oh well…I enjoyed the story overall, even with all my little complaints. I would still recommend Branded to fans of YA Dystopia. It was a good read and I will read the next in the series.