Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. We were perfect. They would have been disbelieving: nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.
They were born together and they will die together.
One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death.
The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.
The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.
Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.
The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.
Review: In this post-apocalyptic world, there are lots of side effects of “The Blast”, but most notably is the fact that everyone is born a twin. One boy and one girl. One Alpha and one Omega. One perfect twin and one deformed. And while the Alphas would like nothing more than to remove their poisonous other half, they cannot as the Omegas are tied to their own mortality. The Alphas and Omegas are born together, and they will die together.
The dynamics within this new world are unique and interesting, and the relationship between Alphas and Omegas is complicated and scary. Everything from social standing to family bonds, with morality being questionable at best, callous at worst. Although Omegas are viewed as poison, nothing but the by-product of a perfect Alpha, they remain necessary as one twin cannot live if the other dies. Both twins, although separated in every other sense, will die at the same time as their other half. This is the only thing that is stopping the Alphas from eradicating the Omegas. This world is full of segregation, torment and oppression.
I found the premise to be equally interesting and depressing, and I was intrigued by it from the very begriming. The fact that the Omegas are considered poison and dead-ends, but need to survive to keep the Alphas from dying too, all brings a new and interesting twist to domination and discrimination. And it emphasises that every action has consequences and complications – how can the Omegas fight back against the Alphas when it means that their own will be affected, and how can the Alphas really dominate when their own vulnerability lies in the hands of those they are trying to oppress?
The Fire Sermon follows Cass, throughout her struggles of the system that will separate her from her family, her deep caring for others and her determination to stay connected to Zach, her other half. The story begins by showing that Cass and Zach are somewhat unique. They are twins who have not been separated due to the fact that the deformity that will identify Cass as an Omega has not been revealed. Cass has known for some time that she is the Omega, however her deformity is not physical, she is a Seer, so she has been able to hide it longer than most. And as the years go by, Cass is hopeful that she can continue to hide the fact that she is the Omega, as Zach is filled with bitterness and hatred that he cannot claim his rightful place as Alpha. But as the story progresses over the course of years, Cass’s life will take some very unexpected turns, and she will be forced to face some very harsh truths about the brother she thought she knew.
To be honest, I think the characters themselves are the main reason I am not giving this book 5 stars. I didn’t find any of the characters overly appealing (or appalling), and I feel they just needed a little more depth. I felt that we just touched the tip of the iceberg with the characters, and I think with more development I would have felt more connected to them. Cass begins as a very strong character; she is determined, strong-willed and solid in her beliefs. She longs for a better life, for both Omegas and Alphas, however I found that in the second half of the book this is to her own detriment. Due to her stubbornness, at times she will not see things how they really are, only how she wants them to be, and this not only leads to some very dangerous situations, but also frustrating ones. She definitely grated on my nerves towards the end, she wouldn’t listen to anyone else and became whiny. Not to mention that she constantly banged on about her own opinions and tried to force them on to others without really explaining them or trying to get others to understand her point of view. I really hope that Cass develops further in future instalments.
The first half of The Fire Sermon is filled with intensity, action and drama, which sadly drops off in the second part of the story. However there was still enough to keep me entertained and interested in this story. Maybe if felt a little slower because I was getting a little tired of Cass and her self-importance, or maybe it was due to being introduced to new characters that I couldn’t quite connect to. I am not sure exactly what it was, but I was still invested in the journey and interested to see where the story would lead.
The world building itself was captivating, with enough information to keep me going, but withholding enough to keep me wanting more. There is still a lot left to learn about this world, including about “The Blast” and “The Before”, and I really look forward to finding out more about this in future instalments. But what I really enjoyed about The Fire Sermon was the prose, which is subtle but beautiful. Francesca Haig’s writing is effective without being simple and elegant without being flowery, and she did an outstanding job of including marvellous language throughout the book. Francesca has mastered the use of words and the English language to its fullest potential, and her exceptional ability to find appropriate but beautiful words really drew me in to this storyline.
Overall, The Fire Sermon is a terrifying new world with revolves around twins, bound by nothing but birth and death. With a unique premise, captivating prose and enthralling world, The Fire Sermon is a wonderful post-apocalyptic debut that promises much more to come in future instalments.