Branded – A Sinners Series 1



Branded, written by co-authors, Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki, is a story that follows the journey of a young girl accused of a crime she didn’t commit.

From this description , a person may think this could be the making of a great mystery novel. This is not a mystery novel. It is a dystopian novel. Now I know, there has been many dystopian novels written as of late (most I will cover here as I enjoy a good dystopian book) so you may ask yourself “What makes this story different?” Before we get into differences, if any, let me provided the synopsis of the book:

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.


Who are the main characters?

As you’ve read above, and seen on the cover, the book is told through the sea colored eyes of Lexi Hamilton. When the story first begins Lexi has been accused of a crime and is dragged out of hiding by guards who work for the Commander. I found Lexi’s character in the beginning to be very lonely. She is forced to move into the place called the “Hole”. A dark place where people are starved and killed on a daily basis. I enjoyed reading things from Lexi’s point of view. She described her emotions well, especially since the book is written in her POV. That is limited as to knowing how everyone around her felt as well but she did explain their expressions as well so we weren’t completely in the dark. Speaking of dark, Lexi’s life past her father’s death and her brother leaving her behind is very dark. We learn about her life under the roof her step-father through horrific dreams that she relives over and over. Despite this, Lexi grows throughout the novel, in the end becoming much more stronger than she was in the beginning of the book.

Second character of mention is Cole, a guard assigned to protect Lexi, with a dog name Zeus. Let me say this now. I. Adore. Zeus. He is a dog that should not be messed with. He is adorable and made the story a joy to read because he acted like a guard dog would, very protective. His owner, Cole, in the beginning I didn’t think much of him. He was a guard ordered to watch Lexi. His behavior was typical of a man asked to do something. He just follows orders. Cole turns out to be a very compassionate man who starts to see Lexi in a whole new light as more than someone he’s been ordered to watch.

List what you liked about the book:

  1. It is a dystopian novel. Well-written dystopian is always a joy to read because it exploits events that makes an individual consider their own actions in present time.
  2. It is a forbidden love story which is always a great read.
  3. It has a plot twist. Any twist that leads me down one door, shuts it then opens another door that I wasn’t expecting is a win-win in my eyes.
  4. Lexi’s progression throughout the book. In the beginning she was naïve and Cole always had to save her. By the end she was independent, making choices for herself that she felt was right. I admired her for her significant change.


Is there anything you didn’t like about the book?

I was not a fan of love sick Cole. I’m not saying that Cole had to remain hard and tough as we meet him in the beginning but I would have liked some of that strong nature we grew to accept with him stick around to the end. When I saw how much he changed based solely on his love for Lexi I shook my head. It felt like Cole was an entirely different character which made me mourn the tough Cole I actually respected.

I also feel that there was a lot of tell in regards to the relationship between Lexi and Cole and not a lot of showing. I could tell they felt something for another before they themselves admitted it. I could tell when they were upset, when they wanted to touch one another but there wasn’t a lot of showing. I didn’t feel like the story was showing me their love. I was just told they loved each other and that was that.

Any plot twist?

Yes, yes and yes! As the book was nearing the end and Lexi is having a conversation with her brother I honestly thought I knew what the twist was. I was completely wrong. I will not reveal the twist here but there is one that will leave you just compelled to scratch your head and wonder ‘the heck?’

Overall Impression?

As a fan of dystopian books, I really enjoyed ‘Branded’. The story was fast paced and felt rushed but I didn’t mind that. I love a book that doesn’t drag too much.  I was able to love the characters and want to see what happens next in the upcoming chapters. I will say the ending set the book up for the second installment which is hitting shelves next year.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes, I would gladly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a dystopian YA novel.

Final Grade?


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