& Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig. Publisher: Gallery Books.

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig. Publisher: Gallery Books.

*I received this book as an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest, unpaid for opinion. It has not influenced the content of my review.*

The Book Itself: Really ominous and eye-catching. I’m not sure if this will be the cover when the book is really released, but this looks awesome. The brand-like detail is very eerie (In the story, Omegas are branded with this symbol on their forehead).

My Review: Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has 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.

Ah, good old dystopian. End of the world backstory, new caste systems, futuristic characters to get to know, world building, ahhhh the old Ampersand Read hat trick. The premise of this one sounded interesting: twins who are subject to the other’s discomfort. So you can’t really let the Omegas waste away without allowing their Alpha counterparts to waste away as well. Poetic justice.

The problem is, this dystopian follows too in line with so many other dystopians. The world before the “nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature” is just called…Before. There’s a journey, a mysterious partner (who conveniently remembers nothing about his past…which will inevitably come to a head near the end of the novel), an unearthing of lies that the government aka the Alphas have fed to their Omega twins, and a “twist” that I predicted from the beginning.

Our main character, Cass, is kind of a wimp. She is subjected to physical and mental hardships. For a brief portion of the novel, she is imprisoned for 5-ish years. There is always the possibility, as a seer, that apocalyptic visions and visions of unknown futures will drive her insane. Plus, she’s on the run for the whole story. So lack of food, water, the physical toll on the body…she’s pretty beaten up.

But nerve-wise, she’s a chicken. She LOVES her twin, Zach. Even though, you know, he tries to imprison her, hunt her down, and injure/kill anyone who gets in the way of that, including a resistance that builds in a far off section of the world. She’s a champion of the Alpha cause, in a way. She reminds others that not just one person died. Two people did: the Omega and his/her Alpha twin. She recognizes that the solution is not to kill all the Alpha oppressors. She wants that perfect world image where everyone works together and lives in harmony.

In a way, this is frustrating, but it’s also kind of refreshing. She’s the opposite of bitter, and she’s a peacekeeper to a fault. But in a way it makes her too goodI want her to get a little bit nasty about something. I want her to snarl at someone, get angry.

Because it’s a dystopian, with so many examples ahead of it, I found the plot predictable. The Omega she meets up with is an amnesiac. But I knew what his past was going to be, knew who his twin was, before any hints were dropped (I just went with the most dramatic option, and was proven correct). They develop a predictable, kind of passionless romance. Their method to fight the system does not seem big enough. The prose itself is unremarkable, even wooden at times.

It could have also really benefited from a map. I can only picture landmasses so far. Saying a location is north of this rock and west from this river…it bogs down the description.

This is slated to become a movie. And maybe that will change the events, make the whole thing more visual, dramatic, cinematic for viewers. But as a book, I did not find it quite unique enough, compelling enough to fly me through the pages.

My Grade: C

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