Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicki
Posted by brriske
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. 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.
I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.
The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down on it, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough.
My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back.
Death and I glare at each other through my tears.
I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here.
I’m ready to go. On the count of three.
I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.
A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand, waiting with the rope around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.
Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.
Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home.
It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.
My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name.
On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder.
Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder.
“Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners.
Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying.
Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now.
My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest.
Gotta keep going.
“Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me.
In Branded, the United States no longer exists as we know it today. In the aftermath of WW V, we are governed by a tyrannical supreme commander who rules with an iron fist, aided by zealots and armed guards. The Hole has been created to house those unlucky enough to be deemed sinners. It is a huge section of the city, walled off and patrolled by armed guards that shoot to kill, and teeming with sinners. In a process that seems like a combination of the burning time for witches and Hitlers ethnic cleansing, it doesn’t really matter if you’re guilty of a sin, those wanting to enact revenge or rid themselves of someone they deem an annoyance can ensure that you will be judged and sent to the Hole. Once condemned, you are taken to processing and branded, a different color for each of the seven deadly sins. Your color will be burned into the entire circumference of your neck, on display for all to see. Lexi Hamilton, member of the area known as High Society, has been deemed a sinner. She is branded with the sin of lust, accused of being found with a man. Taken to the Hole and assigned a guard named Cole, Lexi finds that she is being treated differently than the average sinner. Cole and his dog Zeus remain with her after her initial training and escort her to and from her new job at the only hospital in the Hole. She meets a doctor named Sutton and finds that he genuinely wishes to keep her safe. The conditions in the Hole are on par with that of third world countries, over populated shanty towns, lack of food and proper medicine breed disease and unrest. Public executions are the norm, put on display for all to see, a reminder of what happens when you break the Commanders rules. Lexi is a young woman trying to make the best of a terrible and unjust situation, working in the hospital to ease what suffering she can and slowly learning how to live her new life in the Hole.
This is a fabulous book that depicts a very real and possible dystopian future for the United States. The story is believable, which makes it all the more horrifying to read how the majority of the remaining population is being treated by the privileged few. Lexi’s story puts you through an emotional ringer, I cried, I was angry for her, and i even felt hope and happiness for her. The imagery in this book is superb, the words paint a detailed picture throughout the entire book. If you like books that depict an alternate or dystopian future for us then you will enjoy this book, it is definitely on par with books such as the Handmaids Tale, Children of Men, and the Enigma Black books. I cannot wait to read the next installment in this series.
I give Branded 5 out of 5 fangs.