Branded


Young Adult - Fantasy - General
512 Pages
Reviewed on 11/23/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Branded by Joseph T. Humphrey is a fantasy novel revolving around a high-schooler named Henry Murphy, whose seventeen years of life turn out to be far less normal than they seem. The book begins with a prologue of baby Henry being rushed with his parents into another dimension. The fear is palpable, and they are definitely being chased. The book then moves to Henry as a teen, working for a baseball scholarship and being encouraged by his friend Charlotte. As the truth begins to unfold, Henry, Charley, Dawn, and Thom, who slowly remember the force they fled another realm from, are confronted with an actual battle between the darkness of the Nekura and the safe protection of The Light.

It is extremely rare for me to be at a loss for words, but here I am, gobsmacked and blown away by Branded. Joseph T. Humphrey is an exceptionally gifted storyteller and, paired with a plot and characters he's turned from ink into flesh, this series is a winner. I'll spare you the pun connecting that last sentence to an inkblot but, trust me, you will want to know when you get to chapter 161. There is tension on every single page. There is intrigue, fear, conspiracy, gremlins, war, mashed potatoes in safe houses, and school receptionists with beehive hair. I was most impressed with the personalities given to even the most ancillary characters, and the running dialogue feels organic. As a reader, it takes a great deal of trust to embark on a new fantasy series. Branded is well worth your trust and pays out fantastically. I am so excited to see the direction we are hurtled into next.

K.C. Finn

Branded is a work of fiction in the fantasy genre. It is aimed at young adults and was penned by Joseph T. Humphrey. The book follows Henry Murphy as he discovers the truth about his origin, previously repressed his entire life; Henry and his family are from another world. The unwilling carrier of a secret that could lead to dark forces gaining control of all life, Henry must find his way through a strange new reality to find the furnace before the Nekura, who hunt him, destroy both worlds in their search.

The concept of a world aside from ours that is magical and full of adventure yet just beyond our reach is such a rich and appealing setup to a fantasy novel. It is a world bursting with potential that Joseph T. Humphrey is careful not to squander as he builds a complex world and a compelling story within it. The lead characters, such as Henry and Charley, are relatable and dynamic, with plenty to root for but enough complexity to keep the story of their journey engaging. I particularly enjoyed the threat presented by the Nekura, which was initially established whilst maintaining their mystique. As the story developed and we learned more about them, this new information only made them feel more dangerous. Branded is an excellent addition to the young adult fantasy genre, which brings some fresh ideas to the coming of age story we’ve all seen before and offers a new take on dynamic central protagonists.

Liz Konkel

Branded by Joseph T. Humphrey is the first book in The Forgotten series. Henry and his friend Charley receive an eerie warning to run from a frantic classmate right before she is carted away by mysterious men in blue vests. The search for answers proves difficult when all the adults shrug the situation off as a nervous breakdown. The two friends know more is happening than meets the eye. Creatures called the Nekura emerge from the dark and pull Henry and Charley into a deadly chase that has been happening since before Henry was born. He discovers that his whole life has been filled with secrets and that his parents have spent the last several years on the run from a dangerous threat. His parents fled from another realm after stealing a power source called the furnace before the Nekura could use it to gain control. Henry searches for the furnace's location to find answers about the lost memories leeched away from them all.

Joseph T. Humphrey blends mystery, action, and familial bonds in this coming-of-age journey that has Henry learning about a destiny he never knew he had. The fine details Humphrey weaves into the world bring it to life through the magic, the family, and the dangerous Nekura, with little details that make this world unique, such as a guard dog in a nightlight, living tattoos, and a live creature of stone. The writing seamlessly delivers vivid descriptions that draw you into every moment with Henry, whether it's action-packed or emotional. Each scene has fine details that deliver humor, mystery, and action with walls to hold in reverberating screams, stone coming together like masonry jigsaw puzzle pieces, or being spun about by an ocean of smoke. The story weaves between the perspectives of Henry and Charley, exploring their individual journeys as they struggle with being teenagers. At the core of the story is love, which is the driving factor for Henry and his parents. Their mantra about love being on their side provides them with strength and keeps them together. Branded delivers a coming-of-age journey that explores themes of abandonment, jealousy, loss, courage, and family through an action-packed tale of light versus darkness.

Rabia Tanveer

Branded is the first novel in The Forgotten series by Joseph T. Humphrey. At 17, Henry Murphy is your normal teenager who struggles with his school load and maintaining friendships. He never fitted in, and his only friend Charley was the one good thing in his life. Henry soon figures out why he never felt like one of the kids in his school. Turns out, Henry and his parents are from another realm where strange creatures and strange powers are very common. But his parents took a very powerful furnace (the Light) and have kept it hidden from the Nekura up until now. However, they have caught up to Henry and his family, and this time, they will not stop until they have the powerful furnace. The Murphys are just in the way. It is now up to Henry and his friend Charley to locate the furnace before the Nekura does and protect his family before it is too late.

Branded is perhaps the best young adult novel I have read this year. With strong characters accompanied by a powerful plot, author Joseph T. Humphrey has developed a fantastic tale of survival and acceptance that everyone will love and can relate to. While this is my first time reading a story by the author, there is a sense of welcome and familiarity in the way he writes, making the reading experience phenomenal. The narrative is deceptively simple at first, but as the story progresses, the reader is made aware of the complexities of the plot. Henry’s reactions are genuine, and his friendship with Charley is great. They trust each other and support each other. The best thing about their relationship is that Charley is not a sidekick to Henry. They are partners, and they work together. This is a remarkable beginning to the series, and I cannot wait to see what happens next! Brilliant in every aspect!

Vincent Dublado

The first time we meet Henry Murphy in Joseph T. Humphrey’s Branded, we see that he does not belong to the human realm and that his parents, Thom and Dawn, are trying to run away from the other side of the Veil where they all came from. They are trying to keep Henry away from the hands of dark forces. The couple is also a target because Thom stole the furnace, a perpetually burning, self-existent light source that would give the Nekura uncontested power. If these enemies take possession of the furnace, all life would be bound to them. Escaping and jumping to the other side will give Henry a chance to live, and the couple can blend in as others have already done. But this comes with a price, as dark forces have silenced their memories. Years of hiding do not guarantee their safety, especially when those running after them are relentless in getting what they want. Henry cannot keep hiding forever and must face the forces to understand who he is.

The beginning is already action-packed, and it provides weight to an origin story that every action hero in a young adult series requires. Joseph T. Humphrey writes in short chapters that give you a thrilling effect of reading a James Patterson novel to further heighten the excitement. The wisdom of the plot is to provide Henry with a motivation to fight elements and fulfill a responsibility that asks too much of him. That is, erasing his memories gives him the desire to know more about his past because a young action hero must be driven to be interesting and move the storyline. You then see astonishing feats taking place, and Humphrey makes you accept it with fascination, the way a child does when listening to a fairy story. As the first installment in a series, Branded sets the bar and makes you look forward to the next installment.