Title: The Fire Sermon
Author: Francesca Haig
Series? Yes. 1 of 3.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.
I loved the concept of The Fire Sermon, the book certainly showed a lot of promise in the first chapters. Towards the middle, I felt that the plot dragged a bit. Thankfully, it resurges at the end to finish on a strong note.
A TWIST ON THE USUAL APOCALYPTIC WASTELAND
There was always one boy and one girl, with one from each pair perfect. Not just well-formed but strong, robust. But soon the fatal symmetry became evident’ the price to be paid for each perfect baby was its twin. They came in many different forms: limbs missing, or atrophied, or occasionally multiplied. Absent eyes, extra eyes, or eyes sealed shut. These were the Omegas, the shadow counterparts to the Alphas.
The young adult genre is littered with farfetched post apocalyptic set-ups: ranging wildly from worlds where love are outlawed, to planets where all your thoughts are vocalised in an endless stream of noise (an aside: I LOVE THE CHAOS WALKING TRILOGY). Hence, when I found The Fire Sermon is based on the concept of twins and their dichotomy: with one being mutated, the other flawless – I took it all in stride.
The Fire Sermon can be an upsetting read, as the world it’s set in is definitely dictated by ableism. As parents on Omega children are lawfully required to abandon them, sequestering them into isolated, starving colonies – the book allows its plot to explore the marginalisation of the disabled. More than this, the Omega are infertile, derogatorily called dead-end and forced to believe that they have no future as a people. I love The Fire Sermon for being able to examine some of their struggles.
However, I wished that our main character did not come from a position of relative privilege. Though Cass is an Omega, she was able to hide this for most of her childhood as she had no physical deformities. Instead, her curse is being a Seer – with the ability to sense danger, directions, and glimpsing at the occasional prophetic dream. She’s stuck in-between, the Omega envies her while the Alphas fear her. She’s in a fairly awful situation, but the Omegas are correct to say that she has it easier than the rest of them, to be frank.
SIBLING RIVALRY TAKES ON A NEW DEFINITION
Thw twins came in pairs, and they died in pairs. Wherever they were, and no matter how far apart, whenever someone died, their twin died too.
I also loved the way the twins are intricately linked. The Alphas are taught to hate, while the Omega are taught to fear their twin – however, when one die, the other will follow. For this reason, the Omega are not completely cast off by society – they are a required an unwanted part of this world. Seeing all the various twins and their tumultuous relationships in this book was very intriguing.
My favourite relationship in this book was the one between Cass and her brother, Zach. Zach is spiteful, he feels that Cass owes him his childhood as she hid her Omega trait – making the Alpha suspect and shun them both. He’s also ambitious and ruthless, ready to climb up the ranks of society and cast off Omega once and for all. However, both Cass and the reader feel that he still yearns to spare his sister: whether it’s from love or from a selfish sense of preservation; it’s hard to tell. But that’s what makes this relationship so damn interesting!
SOME CLOUDS ON MY READING EXPERIENCE
The first 200 pages of this book was freaking amazing, I loved the way it set up the plot, the world, and the relationships that Cass has. And then Cass goes on the run, while the plot ran off with her? I felt that for about 150 pages, nothing much really happens. Also, Cass’s relationship with a boy she finds, named Kip, induces me to sleep a little. I think there was meant to be a romance somewhere in there, but they sadly had zero chemistry. Cass has more spark with her own brother… did I just say that out loud? Anyway, that’s totally not just my brain wired up from twincest thanks to GoT and Falling Kingdoms, hee!
I’M STILL INTRIQUED
Despite the slight hiccup I had with the middle part of the book, I found the writing lovely – and I love the questions the book pose for potential existence between both Alpha and Omega. There’s also a brewing resistance (when isn’t there!), so I’m excited to see where that plotline will go. The twist at the end of the book wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it definitely throws the plot in a completely different directions than what I expect – so I’m eager to check out the rest of the series.
I loved this spin on the dystopia world, which provides us with sibling angst and confront us with the issue with ableism. It’s a book that makes me think and contemplate, and you know how I love those! Have you read it? What are your thoughts?