It is a rare thing for me to read a sequel immediately after finishing a book; normally, I like a break, a chance to take a breath, before continuing on with the adventure. For this series, however, the second book was in my hands within seconds of the final page of the first being turned. That series is The Fire Sermon series by Francesca Haig.
I actually first got my hands on the series about a year ago; I bought the first one and received an arc of the sequel for free at YALC last year. That being said, it’s taken me a year to read them and, with the finale out now, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The Fire Sermon is set in a world obliterated by fire, implied to be nuclear warfare. Technology is a thing of the past and only twins are born. Of these twins, the Alpha twin is perfect yet the other, the Omega, receives the brunt of radiation damage, being born with anything from an extra arm to missing limbs. Alphas rule while Omega’s live in abject poverty. Despite this, their lives are intrinsically connected – when one dies, so does the other.
Cass, the series’ main character, is born an Omega. Yet, her imperfection is mental rather than physical – Cass is plagued by visions of the blast that destroyed the world, but within that are also visions of the future. These visions guide her as she embarks on a journey to find her own freedom, but ultimately being caught up in something which could see the past repeat itself.
Everything about this series has worked for me so far. Even from the very first pages I was captivated, thinking about the story and everything it entails even when I was not reading. What I particularly enjoyed about the book is that, while it explores so many themes that are so applicable to today’s society, it does so in a way that you don’t realise that’s what it is doing – the themes are perfectly woven into the story.
Haig’s writing melds the story, the characters and the ideas together beautifully, creating a story that requires no thought to get into but will keep your mind active from the moment you’re sucked in. The balance between action and breathers allows you to read without being overwhelmed by all that is going on and the characters are really enjoyable to read (even those which aren’t particularly pleasant).
There is also a fair amount of diversity, particularly with regards to physical disabilities, and, as far as I can tell, these are handled well. The Omegas are shown to be able to function just as well as the Alphas (if not better in some cases), and their disabilities are just facets of who they are rather than a defining characteristic. The book does fall down with regards to mental disabilities; the only one we see is Cass’ ability to see the future, which is not something we see in the real world. That being said, there is an interesting dialogue with regards to Cass’ struggles with fitting in due to her ‘defect’ being invisible rather than physical. The novel also includes prominent PoC characters, and a lesbian character (although, be warned, The Map of Bones does suffer from the dead lesbian trope, albeit this part of the story line is paralleled with a straight character).
On the whole, the first two novels in the series were just what I needed to read when I read them. They got me thinking while also bringing me into a story and world I was properly invested in. I fell in love with the characters, and the book just made me desperate to find out what happened to them. Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first – while the hardback of the third book, The Forever Ship, is available, I am currently on a book-buying ban and I would rather get the book in paperback to match the first two (that being said, the paperback comes out in January 2018 – I’m not sure I can wait that long!).
I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good dystopian, realistic characters and a thought-provoking read.
The entire trilogy is out now!
The Fire Sermon rating (4.5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18109771-the-fire-sermon
The Map of Bones (5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26174866-the-map-of-bones
The Forever Ship: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35519886-the-forever-ship