Several generations ago, the Blast decimated the human population, destroyed the machines and ended that legendary power source called ‘Electricity’. In the years that followed, the few survivors who were capable of bearing children always bore twins – a boy and a girl, one perfect and the other deformed. Sometimes the deformation wasn’t immediately obvious but once it was finally clear which twin was they were brutally separated – the perfect Alpha would remain with the parents, receiving a life of privilege, and the imperfect Omega would be exiled to a village that was more like a ghetto, sentenced to a harsh existence made even worse by the Alpha-class’s tyranny.
Cass is one of those Omegas whose deformity is on the inside: she is a seer, a kind of psychic-empath, who is often treated with suspicion even by her own kind. But Cass has a darker secret – her Alpha brother is now one of the most feared members of the Alpha Council. As a child his name was Zach but now he is ‘The Reformer’, dedicated to stamping out the Omega menace and, rumour has it, performing some cruel experiments on the side.
When Cass escapes the fortress where her brother has kept her imprisoned, she rescues an Omega boy who was one of her brother’s experiments. The boy has no memory of his past, not even his name. Together they begin a dangerous journey, seeking out a mythical island where Omegas supposedly live in freedom, but even if they find it will they be as free as they hope? As Cass’s vicious twin and his dreaded seer-aide, The Confessor, are never far behind. Before The Fire Sermon ends, cities will fall, hundreds will die, and Cass and her companion will be forced into a collision course with the dreadful truth of who they really are.
Words like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘instant classic’ are cliché, but in the case of Francesca Haig’s astounding The Fire Sermon, they’re the only words to use. It’s a breath-taking, passionate, absolutely sensational work of imagination, perfectly structured, beautifully written, populated with fabulous characters (especially the young hero and heroine) and packed with intrigue, violence, compassion and underlined by a very important human message that is always present without ever becoming homily. Before I started reading, The Hunger Games-esque cover on my uncorrected publishers copy made me worried, but this isn’t yet another rehash of that all-too-familiar story. The Fire Sermon is completely without equal – it leaves Hunger Games, Divergence, Twilight blah blah-yawn twitching in the dust.
Read it immediately, before the anticipated film version brands its visuals into your head. It is wonderful.