PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

The Map of Bones is the sequel to The Fire Sermon, which in this reviewer’s opinion, was the finest fantasy novel of 2015. If you haven’t read The Fire Sermon yet, you should. And then you should read The Map of Bones because, if possible, it is even better. 

How much can I tell you without giving anything away? Centuries ago, an apocalyptic explosion laid waste to the world. Now what’s left of humanity is divided between the privileged, physically perfect Alphas and their mutant twins, the Omegas, who are branded and forced to live as outcasts, struggling to survive in the ruined wilderness. But no matter how much they despise their Omega siblings, the Alphas still need to keep them alive – a fatal bond between twins means that when one of them dies, so will the other.

This is the continuing story of Cass, an Omega-seer, whose psychic abilities make her feared and mistrusted even by her own kind. Cass is still struggling to make sense of what she discovered at the end of The Fire Sermon, and the awful tragedy that unfolded. Her dreams of the blast that consumed the world in fire are growing stronger, and she knows – because of what happened to other seers before her – that madness cannot be far behind. But she still has to stop her Alpha twin, the cruel tyrant called The Reformer, from completing his mission to wipe every Omega off the surface of the world and imprison them in the not-dead-but-not-alive nightmare of the tanks, safely out of sight and mind, allowing the Alphas to rule supreme. Yet not even Cass can foretell how far The Reformer will go to make that happen. He has unearthed a terrifying secret from ‘the Before’ that could destroy everything, all over again.

In her quest to stop The Reformer, Cass must confront the past as well as the future. She must learn to become a warrior, and she must attempt a dangerous alliance with one of the Omega’s deadliest enemies. She will see many people killed, she will be confronted by horrors she cannot even imagine (there is a scene at the mid-point of the book, that is as terrifying as it is heartbreaking), and she will learn that, despite what her visions may tell her, not everything is as it seems. The tension runs high, the odds for success are always against her, and all Cass and her closest allies, Piper and Zoe, can rely upon are their collective courage, resourcefulness, and hope. And hope can easily be crushed, even at the final moment.

The Map of Bones is a wonderful book – thrilling, emotionally engaging, booby-trapped with some incredibly inventive twists and turns and some excellent action sequences and, from beginning to end, it is intensely moving. Like its predecessor, this is a book that forces us to consider what it means to be human, and how important it is to respect the humanity in others. Francesca Haig’s writing is exquisite, loaded with turns of phrase and lines of dialogue that are so perfect and so beautifully realised, it reminds us how powerful the written word can be. And, on top of all that, it is – along with The Fire Sermon - the most exciting and rewarding novel we have read in a very very long time. You have got to read these books, they are storytelling at its absolute finest.


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