The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon, #1)
by Francesca Haig.
Some time in the future, a nuclear disaster devastates the world. 400 years after that, humanity is still around but has been changed drastically. Every single person is born with a twin. One twin comes out healthy and ‘normal’ (the Alphas) and the other inevitably has some kind of deformity or abnormality (the Omegas). And despite society’s best efforts to segregate these two types, one hard fact remains: whenever one twin dies, so does the other. They are irrevocably linked. When Cass and Zach are born, it’s not clear which one is the Omega. They grow up in fear of being torn away from their family and sent to the Omega settlement. So when Cass’ deformity manifests itself as a mental power (foresight), she keeps it secret- for awhile. Eventually it comes out, and Cass scrapes by on the Omega settlement while her brother rises in the Alpha Council ranks. Eventually his quest for power and her ability collide, and she finds herself on the run. There have been rumors of a rebel Omega settlement for ages, but does it really exist? And can Cass find it before her brother finds her?
We listened to this as an audiobook on our recent roadtrip to Kentucky. I have to be honest, I really did not like the voice narrator, and I’m not sure whether that biased me more negatively towards the story in general. So take the rest of this review with a grain of salt.
I really like some parts of this book. I think the idea of linked twins is really interesting, and just from the get-go sets up lots of possible story complications. I like the futuristic landscape that Haig paints. The Alpha Council is a Machiavellian work of art, and all too believable. Cass as the main character is… ok. I found myself annoyed with her more often than not, simply for not admitting to herself that her brother is terrible. Kip, the other main character that comes along, was a lot more my style. He was able to maintain a no-nonsense practicality while also being a nice guy, which is a hard balance to pull off. The other minor characters that pop up were just that- minor characters, not really too significant or stand-out, but not a problem either.
My major gripe with this book goes back to the setup. I can buy that twins are born differently and that Alphas would oppress the Omegas. It’s not a huge twist on your standard dystopian fare. My problem is with the choice to make the narrator one of the few rare Omegas with a mental abnormality, rather than a physical one like most of the population. Because heaven forbid we have a main female character who wasn’t normal-looking. It’s like the author had this great idea for a story with political/social commentary, and then backtracked. It ends up feeling like a half-assed effort at a message.
There’s also a lot of to-do in the Goodreads summary about how Cass is all about achieving equality between Alphas and Omegas, but that really isn’t a huge focal point in the book. At least not until closer to the end. It’s more of a ‘yeah, that’d be nice’ without actually doing anything about it for most of the book. So don’t go into it expecting some epic quest to re-order society, because that seems to be more what’s going to happen in book 2.
Overall, it had an interesting premise, but execution left a lot to be desired. I’m still debating whether to read book 2. But if you like futuristic YA dystopias about divided societies, maybe give this a try and see what you think.