Nutshell: Like The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, or Red Rising? The Fire Sermon is right up there with the rest of those top-notch YA series. It should get a ton of love when it hits shelves; if it doesn’t, that’s just criminal. A fully realized mythology and characters that are mysterious and yet still compelling. Francesca Haig shows incredible promise as a novelist, and The Fire Sermon makes me want to grab up her poetry to see if it too has that urgent, mysterious feel. It’ll also help me pass the time ‘til book two hits. Grade: A
Imagine if you had a twin. No, not talking about regular twinning, you crazy-cool multiples. I mean imagine if you had a twin that appeared to be the opposite of you: blemished, flawed, “different”…or perfect, loved, accepted. Now think about what would happen if the “perfect” Alpahs decided to subjugate their “lesser” Omegas. And if the Alphas continued to oppress their twins to the point of near starvation and complete poverty. Even though the death of one twin would mean the immediate death of the other. Sound crazy? Or does it sound like something the human race could easily do? The Fire Sermon makes readers think uncomfortable thoughts about what it is to be human, to be a member of society, and most importantly, what you would do if you were placed in one of those castes.
Cass is an Omega, living in a society that has raised up generations after a horrible nuclear apocalypse caused by ancient technologies which are now banned. She’s not obviously “marked” as most Omega twins are; instead of a missing limb or other handicap, she’s a Seer, a psychic who can feel other’s emotions, what will happen, or what has happened before. She manages to hide her “flaw” for years, but when she’s found out she’s separated from her family and her “perfect” Alpha twin Zach. Sent to live in an Omega village, Cass soon learns that there’s more than propaganda aimed at Omegas. And years later, she finds herself trying to find a way to stop what could be the end of any freedom Omegas have, before the Alphas take total control. The number one force for this change? Her twin Zach. Can Cass break the system so Alphas and Omegas can live together in peace, or with the Alpha Council and Omega Resistance prove too much to overcome?
The Fire Sermon does feel like a mash-up of The Hunger Games, Red Rising, Divergent and a slew of other YA and sci-fi tales. But hey, basic themes are basic themes. Only so many post apocalyptic storylines out there. Still, The Fire Sermon pulled me along with it’s quick pacing and detailed world. Francesca Haig is a master storyteller, and this story moves quickly along it’s path. Cass and her fellow Omegas are, of course, more than simply their Alpha’s “refuse”, and I’m sure Haig will fill out the post-apocalyptic reasons for this twinning in future installments. But right now it’s easy to understand how these two groups can fear each other. I don’t know if that’s Haig’s brilliant way with words, or our world’s ability to easily shun others. (Hint: I’m betting it’s a little of both.)
Subjugation and degradation is the way of life for the Omega. Each year brings further tithes, restrictions and punishments. Haig manages to make the treatment of these individuals feel personal, like it’s happening to you or your loved ones. Her dialogue and descriptions weave together, creating a story that’s easy to get swept up in. Her post-apocalyptic mythology is easy to understand, as are the various connections each twin shares. There are twists and turns you can easily see coming — mostly because Cass can too — but there are a few surprises that definitely left me wanting more. I’ve no idea when book two will be hitting shelves, but I’m already dying to get my hands on it.
Dreamworks has already snapped up the movie rights and though I’m glad that someone has taken notice of this new series, I really hope they’ll do justice to the tale.
[Simon and Shuster, 2015– I received a free digital copy through NetGalley. I received no compensation for this review.]