April 14, 2015

REVIEW: Salt & Stone (Fire & Flood #2)

Salt & Stone (Fire & Flood #2), by Victoria Scott
Published February 24, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: hardback, purchased
Genre: young adult adventure/fantasy
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) In Fire & Flood, Tella Holloway faced a dangerous trek through the jungle and across the desert, all to remain a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed for a chance at obtaining the Cure for her brother. She can't quit--she has to win the race, save Cody, and then fight to make sure the race stops before it can claim any more lives. In the next legs of the race, across the ocean and over mountains, Tella will face frostbite, sharks, avalanche, and twisted new rules in the race.

But what if the danger is deeper than that? How do you know who to trust when everyone's keeping secrets? What do you do when the person you'd relied on most suddenly isn't there for support? How do you weigh one life against another?

The race is coming to an end, and Tella is running out of time, resources, and strength. At the start of the race there were one hundred twenty-two Contenders. As Tella and her remaining friends start the final part of the race, just forty-one are left--and only one can win.
Victoria Scott’s Fire & Flood series continues to surprise me at every turn. I love how it gets you thinking beyond the words on the page. There is an overarching theme in both Fire & Flood and in SALT & STONE of integrity and principles and loyalty and how high of a value you place on those things when faced with tough choices. Not easy questions for anyone, much less teenagers.

In Salt & Stone, Tella, Guy and the members of their alliance are facing the last two legs of the Brimstone Bleed, knowing that each leg will get harder and harder as they get closer and closer to the single cure available to save a loved one. Tella is particularly struggling. She has strong feelings for Guy, but he doesn’t seem to have much confidence in her abilities. This makes Tella determined to prove her worth and think for herself. Meanwhile, she is also struggling to maintain her integrity as the contenders are constantly faced with choices designed to break you. Does she stay true to her friends and the pandoras, or does she look out for number one and do everything she can to save her brother’s life?

Gah, Tella – this girl constantly amazes me. This girlie girl who loves glitter and chocolate and shoes is also the girl who made it through the jungle and the desert alive. This experience has changed her, though. How could it not? She has seen friends and enemies alike die. She has fallen in love, and is now faced with the possibility of it being unrequited. All these things have hardened Tella in some ways.

“I used to be the girl who catalogued sandwich shops by which had the best oatmeal cookies. Now, I’m the girl who catalogs death and the girl who vows revenge. “

The pandoras play a much bigger role in Salt & Stone than they did in Fire & Flood. It’s obvious they have feelings and thoughts just like the humans, which made them so much more important to me as the reader. To the race organizers, they are just as expendable as the humans are, which is absolutely infuriating. That they’ve made this race and created these creatures specifically for it, and are then able to dispose of them without a thought when their apparent usefulness has worn out is frustrating and just so… WRONG.

It appears that Tell has the same feelings, because as contenders die, and their pandoras are left behind, Tella brings them into her fold and cares for them. When pandoras are treated badly by their contenders, Tella offers them kindness. She’s often chastised for this practice, but this is where her principles kick in. It’s just not in her to mistreat any creature, and she’s determined to not have this race turn her into someone who does. As it turns out, Tella’s big heart and unfailing loyalty have both benefits and drawbacks throughout the book.

As in Fire & Flood, no one is safe in Salt & Stone. Characters die. Pandoras die. It wouldn’t be realistic if they didn’t. And, every time it happens, my heart broke. Seeing their deaths through Tella’s eyes was so sad. And, each time I found myself hoping that this death wouldn’t be the one to break her.

Tella’s relationship with Guy is complicated. It’s obvious they care about each other a lot. But, Guy has no faith in her or her abilities. He’s of the opinion that she’s only made it this far because of him and his help. Tella resents him for that (and rightly so), and in an effort to prove herself, she makes a few mistakes. Tella’s also frustrated because Guy refuses to talk to her about what he wants or how he feels. She thinks she’s being strung along, and it sucks for her.

I know that Victoria Scott has only been contracted by Scholastic for two books in this series. But, I am imploring the publisher to PLEASE sign her up to finish the series! Salt & Stone ends as if there will be a third book. The Brimstone Bleed comes to an end, but there are still SO. MANY . QUESTIONS. Tella’s and Guy’s story is not over, and it needs to be finished.

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