Series: The Fire Sermon #1
Published by Gallery Books on March 10th 2015
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined first novel in a new post-apocalyptic trilogy by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.
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.
Note: this book is also available in audiobook format from Audible Studios!
I feel the need to be very upfront about some sensitive issues in this book. In this post-apocalyptic world, some genetic anomaly has occurred and every person is born with a twin. One twin is seemingly “perfect”/”healthy” (this is the Alpha twin) while the other is generally born with a congenital abnormality and is unable to reproduce (the Omega twin). Alphas have basically no time for their Omega twin, and would likely just kill them at birth (this is said sensitive subject material) but the catch is that when one twin dies, so does the other. So, if you have your twin killed… well, you’ve just met your own demise as well.
For a long time, Omegas are just sent away to live out their days in monotony and poverty among other Omegas. For main character Cass, her “disability” was easy to hide: She is a seer, and doesn’t have any physical limitations. For this reason, she and her twin Zach weren’t separated at birth, but many years later when her ability is finally discovered and she is sent away. Zach isn’t too happy that he had to spend his formative years in solitude with his Omega twin, and also, Zach is the worst.
Now, some Alphas are a bit too concerned about having their Omega running around in the world. So what is an awful character like Zach to do when he fancies himself too powerful to allow Cass to live on her own, fearing that his enemies may kill her (and therefore him)? Of course, you hold her prisoner!
So with that background in mind, I think breaking this book down into sections is the best way to go.
- Characters: I am pretty sure I am in the minority here, but I liked Cass. She was not always making wise decisions, and she wasn’t even always particularly likable, but she has kind of had a miserable life, including years in solitary confinement, just for the crime of existing. So yeah, I think she has a right to be a little cranky. And I don’t know how she’d be expected to make good decisions when her family abandoned her, and then she kind of had to raise herself from there on out. I felt for her, and I think she has a ton of potential as a character. I felt a bit disconnected from her, but I did still care about her.
Then we have Zach. No one likes Zach. Because he is awful. But society in general is pretty miserable and horrible, so who knows what will end up happening with Zach. Cass picks up a fellow Omega along the way (I won’t get into how, you can read it for yourself!) and names him Kip. I enjoyed Kip, because he was a bit of lighthearted relief in an otherwise very dismal world. There are more characters introduced later who I am very excited to learn more about, but you know, spoilers.
- The World: The world building in general was pretty decent, Cass has no idea about how the twin thing came to be; seemingly no one does. It’s just an aftermath of what I assumed to be a nuclear war. The descriptions of the land are very vivid, and I certainly had a good sense of the terrain that Kip and Cass were navigating, of the towns they stayed in, even of the prison Cass was in. I would have liked a bit more information on a global scale (like what country/continent this was taking place on), though Cass didn’t really know those answers herself. Hopefully there will be more information to follow.
- The Plot and Pacing: It had its ups and downs. When Cass and Kip were first on the run, I was pretty excited. But then things got a bit boring for awhile, and I felt like some of the stuff in the middle was a bit unnecessary. But, things picked up again and the last 40% or so was exciting. As for the actual story, it’s pretty much the Omegas wanting to have a life, to not be pawns for the Alphas to use as weapons, or to lock away whenever they’d like. But there are some very interesting plot developments toward the end that point to something even bigger than all that. I am very intrigued as to where the story will go.
As for the Alphas and Omegas themselves, it is a bit hard to read about the Omegas being treated so horrifically just because they may not be as able-bodied as the Alphas. I know my experience as a parent to a child with a congenital physical abnormality comes into play here, but it was definitely hard to read about people casting out their children based on some cosmetic differences. The bright spot in this is that the story is told from the perspective that the Alphas are absolutely in the wrong, and that the Omegas are every bit as human as the Alphas, even though the Alphas would not agree.
- The Romance: Kip and Cass had a bit of romance, but it was certainly not the focus of the book. To me, it seemed almost bred from convenience and proximity than it was from actual feelings. They were both so hungry for companionship in any form, that it made sense that they’d end up being together and protecting each other, but the chemistry wasn’t quite there for me.
Bottom Line: This is really my kind of book, honestly. I love a world in shambles, a group in charge who is quite easy to hate, and characters that you want to cheer for. And in this world, there are a ton of people worth cheering for. My only problems with the book were a bit of a disconnect with Cass, and a bit of a lull in the middle of the book. But as a whole, I enjoyed the book, found the world to be quite unique, and am looking forward to reading the sequel!