I read a lot. Something like 8-10 books a month. And every year there are maybe 3 books that I immediately re-read and then think about for months and months. The Fire Sermon is the first one this year that left me with that feeling.
The debut novel from award-winning poet, Francesca Haig, The Fire Sermon is an adult dystopian novel that incorporates fantasy and sci-fi elements so well that I had to make sure “dystopian” was the right word to describe it.
It takes place in a futurescape that is burdened with the ramifications of a 400-year past blast that left the earth scorched and humanity mutated. Every birth produces male and female twins, one Alpha and one Omega. One whole and healthy, one disabled and ostricized. But inexplicably tied through pain and death: what one twin experiences, so does the other.
The Fire Sermon is the story of Cass, an Omega who has no visible deformity, just an internal one: like her namesake from mythology Cassandra, she is a seer. Her twin, Zach, frustrated that her outward appearance has forced them to be raised together instead of apart as other twins always are, works to expose her and courts his own ambitions for power.
One of the best things about The Fire Sermon is that Cass and Zach begin the novel as teens, but it’s an adult novel and Haig deftly navigates the murky trope waters that most Young Adult novels fall into. A romance that doesn’t overwhelm the book. A female protagonist whose neither perfect nor pouty. The type of dystopia that feels possible and real, not convoluted and clunky.
And best of all … it’s just some seriously fantastic writing. I don’t know if it’s Haig’s skill as a poet, or the smooth realism of her world-building, but I was never pulled out of the story. The twists and the way she ended chapters required that I keep going. And the end? I definitely need more.
Good news is: The Fire Sermon has a sequel already in revisions and a 3rd in the works as well. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The Fire Sermon is out today, AND YOU NEED TO GET IT.