Review of The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (There’s still life in YA Dystopian fiction)



I’m a big fan of dystopian, but the YA market has been flooded with so much of it that it’s now almost impossible to find a solid, unique dystopian novel. There’s always too much romance, or too little world-building, or the plots are always derivative of other superior series/novels.

The Fire Sermon by poet Francesca Haig isn’t perfect. There are some things borrowed from other books—but creating a completely unique dystopian novel would be nigh on impossible these days. But Haig gets very close with The Fire Sermon.

After a world-wide (or so the characters believe in this first book) event called the Blast swept across the planet and destroyed infrastructure and poisoned the earth, the remaining population have reverted to living in a more simple, medieval word. But the Blast also affected humans—it made every birth a twin birth, in which one of the twins is born sickly or with some form of deformity, while the other is born strong and healthy. The weaker are the Omegas, the stronger the Alphas. Separated when it becomes apparent which is which, the twins go on to lead separate lives—in physical sense. Because they can never really be separated. They are bonded by  link that means if one is seriously injured, so is the others, and if one dies, so does the other. Cass and Zach are the two twins this first book in what will be a series focuses on. Specifically Cass who flees capture when her brother imprisons her to keep himself safe, and goes in search of a ‘mythical’ place known as the Island—a refuge for Omegas.


Author Frencesca Haig

Haig keeps the pace moving all the way to the climax, which offers a great twist—which I had suspicions about, but was never certain. Her writing is detailed, but somehow the vivid descriptions never bog down the pace of the story or detract from the action. And there is plenty of action—some great chase sequences that Haig builds some gripping tension in. A lot of the book is about journeying across the desolate landscape, but I was never bored and the pages always kept turning quickly. Cass and Zach are great characters, as are the other characters who are introduced throughout the story. There is romance, but luckily it isn’t the focus of the story and doesn’t get so heavy it takes away from the main plot.

The world-building is well done, Haig describing the half-post-apocalyptic, half-medieval world in enough detail that it feels real and believable. The ruined landscapes aren’t the most original setting for a dystopian, but Haig offers enough pace, plot, quality character development and vivid writing that any problems are quickly forgotten.

As with most first books in a series, this one ends on something of a cliff-hanger. The plots started in this book are mostly resolved and this does have a satisfying ending. But once you’ve read this book, you’ll be eager for the sequel/s.

There are some books I wish I’d written myself, and this is the second review in a week where I’ve wished I’d written a book by another author. Francesca Haig is a brilliant writer, and it shows on every page of The Fire Sermon. Even if you’re tired of dystopian, give this book a shot—it won’t disappoint. A movie is already in the works, with a screenplay being written by Haig and the team behind Guardians of the Galaxy, so this book/series will be talked about for some years to come.

Highly recommended.

I received this arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


About Sam Whitehouse

Sam spends most of his time in a different world to other people. If it isn’t one he’s created himself, it’s one he’s reading about. In the rare moments when this isn’t the case, Sam can either be found addicted to a sci-fi or crime show, re-watching Marvel movies, finishing up an assignment for his final year of studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, or trying to get the dozens of ideas for stories in his head under some kind of control. Sam has lived in the same small village in Yorkshire, surrounded by countryside on all sides ever since he could remember. His childhood saw him get into plenty of scrapes climbing trees and crossing rivers and generally believing he was Indiana Jones. Sam gives credit to his Grandad for him wanting to be a writer, and his bedtime stories for keeping Sam’s imagination stoked. But credit must also go to Steven Spielberg, J K Rowling and Stephen King, who have provided plenty of inspiration over the years, too. Sam writes what he reads, and that is pretty much anything—save romance. Fantasy, thrillers, or crime: once an idea takes root, he can’t stop until the world, characters, and plot are on paper. A huge Marvel fan, Sam one day hopes to pen a screenplay for one of their movies, or direct one, or do anything at all related to one. Until then, he’ll stick to his own fantasy worlds and wait for Marvel’s phone call.

Posted on 03/04/2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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