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Book Review: The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig

I do love a good dystopian thriller. firesermon

Normally this is the part where I would write out the blurb for you, but I have lent my copy of this book to my mother and can’t find the blurb online, so we shall have to take a different approach.

BORN AS TWINS
RAISED AS ENEMIES
BOUND BY DEATH

Cass is born a few minutes after her brother, Zach. Both infants are perfect, but only one is a blessing; only one is an Alpha.

The other child must be cast out. But with no discernible difference, other than their genders, their parents cannot tell which baby is tainted.

Perfect twins. So rare, they are almost a myth. But sooner or later the Omega will slip up. It will eventually show its true self. The polluted cannot help themselves.

Then its face can be branded. Then it can be sent away.” – (from Waterstones.com)

Somewhen in the future, a few hundred or so years after a nuclear apocalypse, the population of Earth has been decimated and have regressed to a pre-industrial era. Due to radiation every child is born with a twin, one is physically perfect; the Alpha, the other is deformed; the Omega. The Council of Alphas has decreed that all Omegas are to be separated from their families and they are segregated from society and looked down on by the Alpha population. Not all Omegas have a visible deformity, some are Seers. Feared by Alphas and Omegas alike, the seers are rare and powerful, they can see the future, predict the outcome of harvests, games, even wars. The only thing that binds the twins is death. This is such an interesting concept: if you died when your twin does, what lengths would you go too, to save yourself?

From the word go we are thrown into this world, with no backstory and no preamble, the first chapter is literally Cass being kidnapped. It’s fast paced and action-packed, with exposition that never feels forced. You learn the history of the world while Cass is locked in a cell with nothing to do but remember, you only learn the major plot elements when Cass does, which is something that is rare enough to be refreshing. The lack of technology in a world set in our future is at first odd, but as you continue your journey through the After, you realise why there is no Before technology: fear. The people are scared of the tech that created the world they live in, fueled by the Council and the propaganda they issue. Mass fear is a major theme in this story and it is explored and handled remarkably well.

Francesca Haig is an award winning poet and this is evident in her writing. The words and sentences flow like water and the whole novel has a very poetic feel to it. It could almost be a very old tale retold, reminiscent of an Icelandic saga or Greek epic poem. It’s well written and believable, the magical elements could seem out of place in an otherwise magicless world, but here they fit. It’s a very enjoyable read, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right till the end.

In fact the only issue I have with the story is that there is an element of forced love triangle. I say forced because it literally comes out of nowhere; one minute this man wants to kill Cass the next he’s making cryptic conversation and brushing hair off her face. Fortunately the triangle isn’t something that Haig dwells on, almost as if it’s been dropped there for future reference, very much a “hey, this guy likes you. Now on with the story!”

Annoying love triangle aside, this is a very original take on the post-apocalyptic genre, gloriously readable and will definitely leave you wanting more. I will give it 4 stars for awesomeness and leave you with this passage from my notes:

Shit just got real Xmen.’ Take from that what you will…

4/5 ****

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