Books · Reviews

Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Title: The Fire Sermon

Author: Francesca Haig

Genre: YA, Dystopian Fantasy

Pages: 384

Published: 2015 (UK)

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Acquired: Ebook (Kindle edition)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Synopsis:: Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.

With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

***

Okay, so I have already strayed from my August TBR list, but I have a good reason! I was going through my book samplers from YALC, and I came across The Fire Sermon. I remembered there was a bit of a buzz about this book when it was published, so I had intended to check out the sampler and read it later if I liked it enough. But I got really intrigued in the story! The sampler was 3 chapters long but I really wanted to find out what happened next. I wasn’t 100% sure about whether it was my book style or not so I didn’t want to go out and buy a paperback copy for my bookshelf. Luckily for me Amazon UK had a sale on so I got the an ebook version of it for only 99p- bargain! 😀

***

Without creating too many spoilers here the book is set in a dystopian world struggling to survive after ‘The Blast’- an event which wiped out much of the region, and completely changed the species and way of life of those who remained. Following The Blast humans could only give birth to twins to reproduce, which are somehow linked so that both rely on each other’s survival, no matter how many miles apart they may be. One twin would always be the perfect Alpha, while the other twin (the Omega) would be born with some sort of impairment, such as a physical disfigurement or other disability. On rare occasions the Omega may be born as a seer, which means they look like an Alpha on the outside, but they see visions of the past and the future, of emotions or other types of psychic connections. The is a distinct class system between Alphas and Omegas, and as soon as the difference between the twin is notified they are split to live with their respective class.

The story follows the past and present of seer Cass and her twin Zach. They split up late due to Cass’ ability to keep her visions hidden, which meant that Alpha Zack could not take advantage of the privileges society dictates for him until much later than he should, and the Omega was not sent away at a young age. Zach resents Cass for ‘ruining’ his life, while Cass simply believes that Alphas and Omegas should be equal. After being separated for a while Cass is captured by Alphas and locked away to keep both twins ‘safe’ from death.

The main plot of the story involves Cass’s escape from imprisonment (especially from Zach and The Confessor) in order to find ‘The Island’: a rumoured place of sanctuary from the apartheid situation they all face. Along the way she partners up with Kip. Without giving too much away Kip is an amnesiac Omega she rescued from the same prison building. The Fire Sermon is all about sibling rivalry, discrimination and the fight for ideals; all while unravelling a shocking Alpha plan to change society as they know it

***

Honestly it did take me a while to understand the whole Alpha and Omega situation, as to why there  was such discrimination despite the bond that all twins have to each other. However the beginning of the book focuses on Zach and Cass’ childhood, which I found really interesting and it definitely helped paint the scene a lot more. It is such an interesting concept which I haven’t really read before, and it did keep me reading!

I also really enjoyed the plot progression with Cass and Kip. There was a lot to get to grips with and there were quite a few events to keep me hooked! I was especially intrigued by Kip; he was really mysterious due to his amnesia and I kept waiting to see if we would get to find out more about him. He is one of the main characters in my mind but I definitely didn’t see the plot twist at the end!

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That plot twist!

It was really shocking, and I wish I could talk more about it, but I don’t want to give any spoilers away 😛 .

What I will say is that despite all the drama involving so many characters there was a clear message of perspective; in that by living in another person’s shoes/society your opinion on societal norms may drastically change.

***

I generally enjoyed the plot and the bombshells at the end, but I also felt that there were certain parts of the story that were lacking, which really brought my rating for the book down. I LOVED the first and last third of the book, they really engrossed me with world building, drama and plot progression, but the middle of the book was a bit dull. 😦 They are always running around/away with constant feelings of hunger and weakness that it all got a bit too much. I  get it, I really do. It’s hard to be on the run in a dystopian environment, especially one in which Omega’s are not allowed to have good food or enough resources to feed anyone. But there was so much talk about how bony they had become, and how hard it was to keep running away and just general complaining that it really started to bore me. I tended to speed-read these sections just to get back to the plot progression.

Cass’ seer skills also started to become a bit of a nuisance. I loved the idea of it, especially the poignant scenes when she can see visions of both twins dying when one of them passes away in front of her. There were also hints that she may be able to attack with it if she chose to do so, which could be a great character development. However it was all just too convenient. I mean, she saw everything she needed to see at exactly the right time. There were no difficulties on her quest to find the island, she could suddenly navigate boats, or see an incoming attack. YAWN.

I find think novels involving seers are really hard to write well, because a seer’s power can turn someone into a Mary Sue of some kind. Now, Cass is by no means perfect but her seer ability helped her out one too many times for me. It would have been better if it had failed a lot more or that she couldn’t control it in the way she did.

Finally there was Zach. Rather than this being a critique Zach just confused me. There are SO many questions I couldn’t connect with him. What does he truly believe? What is his aim? Why does he help Cass so often when he is the one who despises Omegas? It was all too much, and I really didn’t get much from him.Who knows, maybe that’s all answered in the sequel?

***

All in all it was an okay book. As I said I love the idea of the survival link between twins and the dystopian-apartheid setting. The plot progression with Cass and Kip is really nice and I kept wanting to read on to find out more. However the constant running scenes and the sheer convenience/good luck of Cass’ seer ability really drained on me and prevented me from loving the book as much as I could have done.

I could only rate The Fire Sermon 3 stars out of 5 and I honestly don’t know if I will read the sequel. Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?

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Rating: star 1star 1star 1

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