Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Fire Sermon

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig
Gallery Books: 3/10/2015
eBook Review Copy, 384 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781476767185

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.
My Thoughts:

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig is a recommended first book to a new YA dystopian series.
Centuries ago a nuclear apocalypse destroyed the known world, leaving behind a blighted land. In this new  world all babies are born as twins, one male and one female, one Alpha and one Omega. The Alpha's are the "perfect" twins (either male or female), without any birth defect or mutation. The Omegas are the "weaker" twins, the one with some "defect" that sets them apart. The Omegas are all branded on the forehead and sent away to live in separate hardscrabble communities where, while the Alphas shun them, they also rule the Omegas and require them to pay tithes. If either one of the twins experiences something painful, the other twin will feel the pain too. More importantly, if one of the twins dies, the other will too. Their lives and deaths are inexplicably connected.

Cassandra is an Omega whose defect is that she is a seer, which means she has a kind of psychic ability. In her case she was able to hide her defect until she was 13, at which point her twin, Zach, tricks her into admitting it. Cass goes to live in an Omega hovel while Zach rises to the Alpha Council. Once there he imprisons Cass but sends a seer in who is working for the Alphas, to try and get her to reveal what she sees in her visions, especially wondering if she sees an island where only Omegas live.

There is no doubt that Haig, a poet, has a way with words. Technically her ability to write and capture a scene and the emotions surrounding it add a depth and richness to the narrative which elevates the story about just another YA dystopian novel. It is the quality of writing that kept me reading this novel. This is the first of a planned trilogy and rights have already been purchased by Dreamworks.

That said, I almost stopped reading this novel for several reasons. The abelism, disability discrimination, is disturbing. I was never able to buy into the whole Alpha/Omega system where you send the "defective" twin away, treat them badly, etc, etc, and yet if the Omega twin dies so will the Alpha. It just doesn't make sense to me and I can't suspend my disbelief enough to get all the lingering questions out of my head. I also found the plot rather slow moving. It was difficult to believe in Cass's abilities, which seem to be rather random, present when they are needed for the plot. The big plot twist was not a surprise for me.

So, for me, this is a technically very well written novel with an unbelievable world. YA readers may be able to set aside any niggling disbelief or questions about how this society is set up, but, in the end, I couldn't.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Gallery Books for review purposes.


Anonymous said...

So, do the book ever explain why the Omegas allow themselves to be oppressed? It seems like a good case of mutually assured destruction to me. All they have to do is threaten mass suicide or something to destroy the whole system.

Lori L said...

Nope - never addressed