Goodreads Rating: 3.77 Stars
Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
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Book Two in the critically acclaimed The Fire Sermon trilogy—The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined post-apocalyptic series by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.
Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort, Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.
Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.
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Quick Reasons: I am supremely disappointed; to quote Gibbs from NCIS: there’s a lot of yabba-yabba, and not much else; the plot feels more like a snail-crawl than a race to the finish; the prose is gorgeous; the characters lost something between book 1 and this; somewhere, this story fell off the rails for me; I just couldn’t get into it
Huge thanks to Francesca Haig; Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books publishing; and Netgalley, for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.
All these weeks and all these miles later, I hadn’t realized that I was still hauling the weight of the sky with each step.
Like book one, the prose in this is gorgeous—melodic, poetic, just a hint of the macabre to get the general mood of the world through to readers. There were so many moments I highlighted while reading, I had a hard time deciding which portions to quote in my review. Francesca Haig, if nothing else, has a definite knack for meshing the beautiful and the ugly into a symbiotic, woven net. This world falls over you like a scarf around the neck: beautiful, but often choking if worn incorrectly.
Even her teeth, as she shouted at me, had flecks of blood on them. Could she taste it? I wondered. What had happened to us? I used to work in the fields and grow things. Now, on this icy plain, I was a harvester of blood.
I am, however…supremely disappointed. This has been one of my most-anticipated novels for at least a year now…and in the end, I feel it let me down much more than I thought any book ever could. Which is depressing, really—when I first started this read, I was SO into the world being built. But somewhere around the thirty percent mark, things began to derail…and they didn’t pick themselves up again until the last ten percent or so.
This book did almost nothing for the story. It suffers a HUGE amount of second-book syndrome, in my opinion—there are a lot of words, there’s a huge amount of backstory…but it doesn’t come together quite as coherently as I’d have liked. It felt like, where the first book was “runrunrunrunrun,” this book became more about crawling, slowly, through a thorn field—hard to pick my way through, hard to find the right pace. I got stuck around the fifty percent mark…and almost couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
The characters, also, seem to be lacking quite a bit from book one. Cass is not nearly as vibrant, or as strong, as I thought she was. The world, and her affliction, and her brother…have all beaten her down SO. MUCH. I’m surprised she managed to pull herself off the ground to begin with. She spent most of this time either whining, arguing over senseless things, insulting her companions…or “stuck” in visions that did nothing to further the plot. Somewhere along the way, this book fell off the tracks…and took my hopes for this series with it, I’m afraid.
But at the end, in the silo, he’d made the choice to die, to save me. These days, it seemed that was the only gift we had to offer one another: the gift of our own deaths.
For a most anticipated sequel, this book really let me down. The world-building here was more “backstory” and “info-dump” than a plot device. The characters spent most of their time seeming lost, or fighting each other. Overall, this was a disappointing journey. I’m not sure I’ll be picking up book three, when it’s released. Of course, just because I personally don’t think this book works, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you! So if you enjoy dystopians, you should definitely give this series a try. The first book is, even now, still one of my top favorites from 2015. I have my fingers crossed book three will work much better for me, if I decide to finish off the series later on.