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4.0 out of 5 starsI liked this smart, well written book and I think I got my money's worth
Reviewed in the United States on April 24, 2015
Centuries after the world is devistated by humanity's weapons, mankind has managed to rebuild. The technology that was linked with the downfall is shunned, the genetic fallout has shaped the society that emerged, and this civilization is on the fast track to cruel domination. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well written, thoughtful, and gripping. For the most part, it is action packed, with only a lull near the beginning, but it was an necessary lull, so stick it out. Cass is a strong female protagonist whose only liability is her world view, which is actually her strongest asset. There is a romantic element to this story, but I will say it wasn't blatant in its sensuality, so it isn't full of hot moments but plays more of the companionship angle. I actually liked the concept of the twins. Though I thought it was going to be a ridiculous when I read the Amazon blurb, it worked really well. The ending might have a few readers crying foul, but I thought it made sense. My only complaint is the price. $13.99 for an ebook is ridiculous, and even though I feel I got my money's worth, I almost didn't read it on principle alone. I'm glad I overcame my impulse and read it anyway. I thought the whole concept was pretty smart, and I'm definitely going to be looking for the next book in the series.
3.0 out of 5 starsThe reluctant protagonist and tons of repetition
Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2018
It's usually the second book in a series where nothing good happens and there is constant strife. In this series, it's the first book where nothing good happens. It's all just a big downhill slide from page one. It can be hard to take. I think I would hate it as a YA trying to get through the book, but that's me. Additionally, the protagonist is So. Forking. RELUCTANT about being the protagonist! It's the most annoying thing in the book! The people around her are forced to drag her kicking and screaming to her destiny. Her self esteem is so low, she cannot see her own value, even when it's described to her in great detail, the same way, over and over and over and over and over and over... It's literally mind-numbing!
This is not a book with a strong heroine. It's a book with a girl who has terribly low self esteem, and who carries around so much guilt that it just becomes tiresome to read (over and over and over and over).
The premise is interesting though. It has the same basic trope as Red Rising- a subjugated class vs. the subjugators. Also, the book is edited well (which is extremely refreshing).
I found myself saying "I probably won't read the rest of the series, but I can't stop reading this one!" I never knew what was going to happen next, so I couldn't stop reading. On the treadmill, in between classes, on my lunch breaks and during my conference periods, I couldn't stop. The author catches your attention from the opening scene of Cass being talented never lets you go. There are a few moments where the story slows and loses your attention,but she gets it back quickly. Haig has a beautiful writing style and I look forward to the rest of the series. Cass and Lip are so well developed as the story goes on that I felt as if they were my partners on their journey. A must read, even if you aren't a sci-fi fan.
4.0 out of 5 starsVery good, definitely worth a read
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2016
I thought the alpha/omega bit was going to be a bit lame at first but it turned out to be rather interesting and just got more and more intriguing as the story went on. I really enjoy the main character who you can root for but at the same time is very real, has flaws, definitely did not choose to be on the path she finds herself on. Her ability proves to be quite helpful and it's interesting how it plays into the story. I'm very eager to read the next in the series.
I loved this book. It was new, it was different and it was original. Not your normal run of the mill book by a long shot. I actually won the hard copy of this book from a website I use and they sent me the hard copy. I couldn't read the small print so I ordered it on my Kindle. It will make a great trilogy and probably a great movie. It is much like the Divergent, Hunger Games type of dystopian after the world has changed type of book. This person has a vivid imagination that's for sure. I recommend it whole heartedly!
3.0 out of 5 starsIt is a fairly good read and I would probably recommend it to younger ...
Reviewed in the United States on April 5, 2015
I imagine this is the first installment of a trilogy or more. Otherwise it would not make sense because the reader is left hanging at the end of the book. The pace drags somewhat in certain areas. It is a fairly good read and I would probably recommend it to younger readers although the tome was not so identified. The book is generally OK.
In a post-apocalyptic world, the human race was on the brink of extinction and those who survived promised not to make the mistakes of the past. But the effects of such changes lingers on, thousands of years after the Blast.
In the After, post-blast time, there are no single children, only twins. One Alpha and one Omega. One boy and one girl. One perfect while the other is flawed. Usually, the Omegas are easily identifiable, missing limbs, sights etc etc, and when spotted they are thrown out of their society while their Alpha counterpart takes his or hers place in society. Despite the difference, the twins are linked - one can't be alive without the other also breathing. Certain Alphas, worried for their own well being, have their Omegas taken from their own societies and trapped for their own protection.
However, with Cass and Zach, the difference between them is much less distinct. Neither have any sort of impairment. Technically, they're flawless. But Cass has a secret, and Zach knows the secret. A secret that could destroy them.
This had such a great start and I was so excited to read this! I was immediately drawn into the fascinating story. The way Zach and Cass's relationship developed in the early pages made this novel so exciting. It begins with Cass narrating the story of how she ended up in a prison cell as she recounts her childhood and then the novel goes into present time as the narrative catches up to Cass’s present state. She dreams of escaping to an island she has only seen in her dreams; it is the only refuge for the Omegas.
The world building is quite unique, you really get a feel for the post-apocalyptical world Cass lives in. There's a lot going on in this book, and time passes quickly in the first bit of the book, and it allows for some great world building. The entire world is scared of machinery and electricity because it was seen as the downfall of the "Before" civilization. Life has been reduced to pre-industrial civilizations are once again based on agriculture and trade instead of technology.
Cass was an interesting character to read. She loves her brother and in many ways, cannot accept what he is doing to her. She struggles with reconciling her childhood sibling with the man that he has become and it holds her back throughout the whole novel.
Kip fills the role of the sidekick, and he could've been really interesting read. Cass saves him when she's escaping, and he has no recollection of who he was before. And throughout the novel, it's supposed to be a complete mystery. But it was easily guessable. From the beginning, it was obvious that he was going to play the love interest but that part of the book was remarkably muted. There are very little moments which gave development to their romance and it was a little disappointing to read.
I should note that this book heavily relies on ableism, the entirety of this novel is based on ableism. And there were some noticeable flaws. One. If I had a twin and had to rely on them, I would be a little bit nicer to them. I would not send them into a terrible place to scrape a living where they could get sick or hurt much for easily. I'm a twin and if this was us, I would keep her somewhere safer. Because I know there would be some sort of resentment and that's what causes the rebellion of the Omegas. Like, this whole novel wouldn't have happened if Alpha's were just nicer. It's a big plot hole.
Overall, The Fire Sermon was promising and the author definitely has some good ideas and has the potential to become a great trilogy.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 14, 2016
… once as an ebook and once as a paperback, for a gift. Yes, it’s one of those novels you end up buying for other people. The set up is disarmingly simple: in a world reshaped by an ancient nuclear war, people only ever give birth to twins. One twin will be healthy and the other will have some defect, which ranges from obvious physical deformity to the more subtle kind, like that experienced by the heroine, Cassandra. She has a predictive psychic ability, which she is able to hide and thus put off the separation from her twin demanded of the population both by tradition/superstition and what operates as a governing power. Her brother, Zach, is thus an Alpha while Cass is an Omega. Their relationship is not a yearned-for opposition to the status quo defined by sibling love so much as an early-life cold war, characterised by fear, distrust and manipulation. There is good reason for this constant unease. Omegas are shunned and despised; we sense that the only reason they are not exterminated is because in this world when one twin dies, so does the other. From this ingenious premise, the author spins a gripping tale that places our sympathies firmly with the Omegas. Not since Katniss put her hand up to volunteer for the Hunger Games in her sister’s place have a set of young characters so effortlessly engaged our understanding. Once Cass has been outed for saving her brother’s life from a falling tree branch, she is banished from her parents’ home to live in a much poorer village, as Omegas are not allowed to settle or farm productive land. The ruthless Machiavellian Zach, meanwhile, joins the ruling Council and quickly begins to accrue power. Cass is a humble young woman, although talented and increasingly resourceful, even driven, particularly when on her brother’s orders she is kidnapped and incarcerated. These sequences are genuinely upsetting, particularly when the imprisonment lasts for years and is interspersed with visits from the Confessor, another Omega who for a particularly nefarious reason is allowed and willing to work with the Alphas against her own kind. The Confessor scours Cass’s mind for clues to the whereabouts of an island that may harbour the beginnings of an Omega revolution. Cass finally manages to escape, but finds more horror. To ensure that their Omega twins do not accidentally die, some Alphas have had them preserved alive in glass tanks. Cass helps one of these, the charming but amnesiac Kip, to get out and the two begin their perilous journey towards the island, which Cass’s ability has discerned with increasing clarity. Many dystopian novels describe a world that is merely a bit unpleasant, a bit depressing with a set-up that would not withstand a moment in reality. Very few take a proper SF idea and interrogate it with the same degree of ruthless yet oddly joyous thoroughness as this one. From its deceptively simple premise, the author weaves a complex and involving tale whose directness approaches the mythic, a resonance borne out by the religious overtones of the book’s title. ‘The Fire Sermon’ also has a number of emotional sucker punches in store which make the story even more exceptional. That nothing in the world of ‘The Fire Sermon’ is quite what it seems should come as no surprise, not least because any politics that rejects an entire group of people for something that isn’t their fault is at best flawed. Indeed, this big-hearted novel is a genuine antidote to the current real-world political horror show. For it is in this regard that Cass is a truly great character. She will not, perhaps cannot, see things in the conveniently binary way demanded of her by vested interests and stupid, intolerant tradition. A lesser character, and indeed a lesser novel, would have taken this easier road. It is a credit to both character and author that things get messy, then devastating in a wholly believable fashion without sacrificing an essential, fundamental optimism. Recommended, to say the least.
3.0 out of 5 starsThe most original dystopia I've read in ages!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 5, 2016
The whole premise of this novel is really unique and interesting. The basic idea is that there was some sort of blast (I'm assuming a nuclear one, but I don't think it's explicitly mentioned) that sent out a load of radiation across the world. A lot of animals died from the blast, others suffered mutations. A lot of infants, human and otherwise, died at first because of the mutations they were suffering from in the womb. Humans adapted in a unique way, by having twins whenever they had children. One child was totally normal, the other absorbed the radiation in the womb, and came out deformed. The normal kids are known as Alphas, the others as Omegas. Omegas are different in many different ways, some of them are missing limbs, some have extra ones, some of no eyes, one, two or three eyes. Most Omegas have physical deformities, but, rarely, some Omegas are born looking perfect, but they're minds are different. These are seers, and they live with visions of the blast that almost destroyed humanity, but can sense their environment, and sometimes have visions of things to come in the near future.
That's all I knew going into the novel. Haig manages to tell us a lot of this in the first 50 or so pages, without info-dumping, which is an achievement in itself. We meet Cass, and the whole book is from her point of view. In the beginning we get her past and present life woven together, so we see her and her twin, Zach, as children and then her in the Keeping Rooms at the Council years later. Francesca Haig manages to weave the past and present together really well, and you can definitely tell she's a poet when you look at her writing.
I loved the characters, and I didn't realise how much I connected to them until certain events happened, and I found myself feeling so many emotions. I felt like Cass and Kip were the most likeable and unique characters, the others kind of fit into the stereotypical slots of their character types, but I found myself not minding because I enjoyed their personalities. I would love to spend more time with Zach and learn more about him, because I'm really curious about what he's doing and why he's doing it. He kept saying he'd come too far and he had things left to do, but at the same time the explanation for his actions is his hatred of Omegas and of the life that was taken away from him from being split from Cass so late in life, but I feel like there's so much more to him than that.
The thing about this book was that a lot of things happened but at the same time nothing happened. There were a couple of big events at the beginning and end of the novel, and of course there were fights and stuff in between, but it kind of felt like there was no end point, like, I'm not sure why they happened. (view spoiler) I don't know. Maybe I'm just used to authors dragging things out and so everything felt like it happened so quickly.
In short, this was a really enjoyable read, and I'm left wanting more in the best way, but, like I said, the fact that so much happened but nothing actually happened pulled this down a bit for me. Saying that, I'll definitely be picking up the sequel!
3.0 out of 5 starsStrong twist on the 'evil twin' concept
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 20, 2016
A really strong concept here that's an excellent twist on the notion yin/yang or even 'the evil twin'. The world building is excellent and it's the first third of the book that I found most appealing: Cass and Zach's problematic upbringing and how it tears them apart is fascinating. Taking them to the ominous sending Keeping Rooms, I would have preferred a more 'cat and mouse' type story between the twins themselves here, but the journey to the island and beyond provides thrills and blood spills, with some surprises as a sting in the tale. I see Dreamworks have bought the film rights, so can't wait to watch the movie.
Just not getting going - don't like to give up on a book but feel like I'm wasting my life reading this one when I could be reading something else! Sorry! Gave up about half way through. Wouldn't recommend.