* * * 3/4
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.
Talk about kicking it up several notches! Salt & Stone may have a quiet start but our heroes are anything but. After coming through the first two treacherous legs of the Brimstone Bleed, Tella, Gus and company are mourning for those they lost while they rest and prepare for the next phase. Taking stock of what they have left and making plans for what lies beyond the race are what’s keeping Tella and Gus motivated. Only are in cahoots to destroy the cruel organizers of the race from within and bring the cure to everyone. However, Tella finds Gus’ one-man-savior-of-all frustrating. She wants to be his partner in efforts to win more than the race but his tendency to shove every one aside and take on the risks on his own anger her to no end. She spends a great deal of time angry with him and confused by his mixed signals. Salt & Stone becomes as much about Tella bolstering her own confidence to prove Gus wrong about her capabilities as it is about finishing the race and winning the cure.
When the race starts up again, they face new rules with higher stakes. But this time they’re tasked to work in teams which makes things harder to a certain extent. Tella, who has always had a tough time in compromising her morals as a Contender, must act judiciously as she steps into a leadership role among the group. Caring for everyone’s needs and seeing to her own could be overwhelming for any seventeen year-old but Tella carries the responsibility with conviction. No matter how grueling the obstacles become overcomes them with sheer determination. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t occasionally escape into teenage reverie which only makes her situation sadder.
Victoria Scott also introduces some new faces to the group resulting in a few worrying confrontations. It definitely made for more interesting dynamics. Tella’s gut instincts are tested constantly so have no doubt that there are some surprises ahead.
The Fire & Blood series has always been about Tella and her fellow Contenders surviving this ordeal as a group. Tella's compassion and compulsion to always look out for others regardless of her own safety is the very heart of the series. Salt & Stone was every bit as thrilling and dangerous as Fire & Blood, and suspenseful to the very end. I’m definitely excited to see what happens next!