Review: Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

August 1, 2014 Book 20 ★★★★

Review: Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy KalicickiBranded by Abi Ketner, Missy Kalicicki
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Series: Sinners #1
Published by Month9Books on August 19th, 2014
Source: Own, Provided by Publisher, Purchased

Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. 

To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.

Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home. 

Constant darkness. 

Brutal and savage violence. 

Excruciating pain. 

Every day is a fight for survival. 

But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole. 

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

My reaction after finishing Branded

Okay let me give you the lo down on Branded: It’s a book set in this dystopian world fifty years after World War 5 (OMG!) where a ruthless man called The Commander uses the seven deadly sins to punish criminals. Said criminals are branded around their neck with the color of their sin.

Lust – Blue
Gluttony – Orange
Greed – Yellow
Sloth – Black
Wrath – Red
Envy – Green
Pride – Purple

These criminals are then cast out by society and thrown into The Hole. In comes Lexi Hamilton. She’s an 18-year-old girl who’s been branded with lust and must live out the rest of her days trying to survive in the Hole. She’s immediately paired with Cole, a mysterious yet compassionate guard who has to protect her from the horrors of the Hole.  As The Hole keeps descending into chaos, Cole and Lexi discover things about the system that’ll make them question everything. Soon they’ll learn that maybe, the only ones they can really trust are themselves.

What I liked the most about this book was the way that it started. It immediately jumps into the action and we’re discovering Lexi’s rebellious and strong spirit from the get go. While she wasn’t necessarily the strongest of the lot (she would faint or throw up or cry), she definitely tried her absolute best to survive.

“You’re a sinner,” they say. […] I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them, even as I shiver with fear.

Lexi is compassionate and headstrong, and at times much too curious for her own good.  However I really enjoyed seeing her journey throughout this novel because Lexi began as a scared little girl trying to battle some ghosts from her past and at the end she’s a strong and determined girl willing to fight for what she believes in.

When Cole enters the picture, you could immediately notice that he’d be the love interest in this book. I honestly can’t complain. Cole is a brave warrior and he’s determined to protect Lexi, even if her brand says she’s a… loose woman.  He sees past Lexi’s mark and learns to love her regardless.

Their romance was definitely well developed. It was a forbidden romance (guard and prisoner) and it was so fun seeing them fight against their feelings. It was slow and even when it was painfully obvious that they were definitely falling for each other, the authors put it aside for a while in exchange for more world building and mystery and whatnot.

There was a wonderful cast of side characters; they all left their own special mark on the story. My favorite character was Alyssa because her storyline was so emotional and definitely one of the things that defined Lexi’s actions most of all.

A thing I didn’t like in the story was the fact that Lexi seemed to have so many privileges throughout: a guard to protect her, a relatively safe place to live, allies, and all around conveniences for her. At the end it is explained why, but it was hard to believe at first. I also didn’t like that while the romance isn’t insta-love; once it finally surfaces it’s kind of all encompassing. Suddenly Cole and Lexi get super intense, which kind of threw me off for a while. Also, the writing didn’t sit well with me at first because I could feel when one author would end writing and the author would begin. Nonetheless after the initial chapters the writing became seamless.

Overall, Branded is a surprising debut novel by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki that introduces a brand new dystopian world with a forbidden romance and a refreshing main character. It’ll leave you breathless for more after you pass the last page.

Did you like my review? If so, would you mind voting for it on Amazon or liking on Goodreads? 😉 


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I'm Marianne. Professional Fangirl, part-time Blogger. Full-time college student. GIFs are a natural part of my posts, so be warned. I LOVE reading, so definitely feel free to discuss books with me. Opinions are welcome.
  • I really want to try this one! Like, at first I didn’t…because I’m super wary of dystopians (I love them, but I’ve read a whole bunch of dodgy ones this year and it’s just made me sad :|) So I kind of avoided it. But the concept sounds really different…almost like Incarceron, but modern-ish?

    • I really loved Incarceron! So glad I know of someone else who’s read it!

      And yes, this is a different kind of dystopian and I was really intrigued at the way the criminals were punished and what not.

  • It doesn’t seem bad at all. Just the romance part that has me cringing my teeth. I mean, guard + prisoner? That’s so ordinary. 😛 But I do enjoy forbidden romance so maybe? Also, she does seem to have a shelter and not be in danger that much at all. The writing, from the quote, seems great but it’s one quote hahah. 😛 Fantastic review, Marianne. 🙂

    • Actually despite the shelter she gets in dangerous situations (I blame her curiosity) and it’s pretty believable danger. Hahaha you’ll have to read it for yourself to see if you like the writing 😉

  • So I actually have this on my kindle and have started with this book a few months ago but just couldn’t get into it. Not because the book was bad, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for dystopian at that time. After your review though, I’m definitely not going to move this book to my DNF/Lost Interest. I’ll probably wait for the next book in the series but your review got me looking forward to trying this one out again. I think I’m going to look at this as more of a dystopian romance than just dystopian, I think it will keep me from getting dissapointed that the romance overpowered the story and enjoy the relationship between the two characters. Awesome review, Marianne! You convinced me to give this book another shot! ^.^

  • Thanks for the fantastic review! I’m glad you liked this one. I was apart of the blog tour for this one, and I really enjoyed it – it was a surprising read for me, as I wasn’t expecting to. 🙂

    • I bought this book on a whim, and I didn’t expect it would have been so good. Glad you enjoyed it as well! 🙂

  • I have my review copy of this buried in my email. And now you just made me regret everything. Hahaha! I’m so excited now. And, uhhh, I’m a little sucker for forbidden romance.

    Fantastic review, Marianne!

  • HAHAHA. Your GIFs, Marianne. I think that’s the best reaction ever when it comes to finishing a book. I actually have this as a review book but (obvs) never gotten around to reading it (what else is new) but I am so happy you reviewed and loved this because now I am excited to finally start reading it! I love that as the story progresses, the writing gets better and the romance was well-developed. What more could I ask for? Well, maybe I can ask for the time to read this, but I digress. Lovely review, Marianne! You really made me excited for this book. 🙂

    • I’ve been hearing different reviewers telling me the same thing: they never got around to reading their review copy. Lol. I hope you find the time! Blogging IS pretty time consuming 😉 Thanks, Sarah!

  • This sounds sooo good. You had me at tough heroine and great world-building but then you had to throw in the forbidden romance and I’m sold. I’m so adding this on GR. Awesome review and as always, very appropriate and spot on gifs, Marianne!

  • Hmm, the premise sounds interesting enough, but I hope it’s developed properly and with good world-building, or else I’m worried it’ll fall flat. Not a fan of the cover, though…couldn’t they have made her brand look better than washable blue marker?

    Great review! Cole sounds intriguing… 😉

    • Well maybe think about it as a dystopian romance as to not get too many high expectations? And I love the cover because of the use of the cover model, but I agree that the brand should look better.

  • Wow, great review!! I was if-y about this book, but your review certainly won me over. The concept seems interesting, and I’m glad there’s no insta-love. I hate when the romance becomes all encompassing though 😛 Lovely review, Marianne 🙂

  • the blurb is pretty and interesting && reading through your review kind of convinced me that this is my type of read. I’m not a huge fan of intense romance but I can always set that aside for an interesting world and good heroine 🙂