The Fire Sermon

The Fire Sermon

by Francesca Haig


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Nuclear war, dystopian unrest, a genetic mutation that divides twins in life and unites them in death—the “refreshingly nuanced” (Booklist, starred review) first novel in award-winning poet Francesca Haig’s richly imagined and action-packed post-apocalyptic trilogy “is poised to become the next must-read hit” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Four hundred years after a nuclear apocalypse, all humans are born in pairs: the deformed Omegas, who are exploited and oppressed, and their Alpha twins, who have inherited the earth—or what’s left of it. But despite their claims of superiority, the Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega whose mutation is psychic foresight—not that she needs it to know that as her powerful twin, Zach, ascends the ranks of the ruling Alpha Council, she’s in grave danger. Zach has a devastating plan for Omega annihilation. Cass has visions of an island where a bloody Omega resistance promises a life of freedom. But her real dream is to discover a middle way, one that would bring together the sundered halves of humanity. And that means both the Council and the resistance have her in their sights.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594713715
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 02/02/2016
Series: Fire Sermon Series , #1
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 577,468
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Francesca Haig grew up in Tasmania, gained her PhD from the University of Melbourne, and was a senior lecturer at the University of Chester. Her poetry has been published in literary journals and anthologies in both Australia and England, and her first collection of poetry, Bodies of Water, was published in 2006. In 2010 she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship. The Fire Sermon, her first novel, was published in 2015. She lives in London with her husband and son. Visit and follow her on Twitter @FrancescaHaig.

Read an Excerpt

The Fire Sermon

chapter 1

I’d always thought they would come for me at night, but it was the hottest part of the day when the six men rode onto the plain. It was harvest time; the whole settlement had been up early and would be working late. Decent harvests were never guaranteed on the blighted land permitted to Omegas. Last season, heavy rains had released deeply buried blast-ash in the earth. The root vegetables had come up tiny, or not at all. A whole field of potatoes grew downward—we found them, blind-eyed and shrunken, five feet under the mucky surface. A boy drowned digging for them. The pit was only a few yards deep, but the clay wall gave way and he never came up. I’d thought of moving on, but all the valleys were rain-clogged, and no settlement welcomed strangers in a hungry season.

So I’d stayed through the bleak year. The others swapped stories about the drought, when the crops had failed three years in a row. I’d only been a child then, but even I remembered seeing the carcasses of starved cattle, sailing the dust fields on rafts of their own bones. But that was more than a decade ago. This won’t be as bad as the drought years, we said to one another, as if repetition would make it true. The next spring, we watched the stalks in the wheat fields carefully. The early crops came up strong, and the long, engorged carrots we dug that year were the source of much giggling among the younger teenagers. From my own small plot I harvested a fat sack of garlic, which I carried to market in my arms like a baby. All spring I watched the wheat in the shared fields growing sturdy and tall. The lavender behind my cottage was giddy with bees and, inside, my shelves were loaded with food.

It was midharvest when they came. I felt it first. Had been feeling it, if I were honest with myself, for months. But now I sensed it clearly, a sudden alertness that I could never explain to anybody who wasn’t a seer. It was a feeling of something shifting: like a cloud moving across the sun, or the wind changing direction. I straightened, scythe in hand, and looked south. By the time the shouts came, from the far end of the settlement, I was already running. As the cry went up and the six mounted men galloped into sight, the others ran, too—it wasn’t uncommon for Alphas to raid Omega settlements, stealing anything of value. But I knew what they were after. I knew, too, that there was little point in running. That I was six months too late to heed my mother’s warning. Even as I ducked under the fence and sprinted toward the boulder-strewn edge of the settlement, I knew they would get me.

They barely slowed to grab me. One simply scooped me up as I ran, snatching the earth from under my feet. He knocked the scythe from my hand with a blow to my wrist and threw me facedown across the front of the saddle. When I kicked out, it only seemed to spur the horse to greater speed. The jarring, as I bounced on my ribs and guts, was more painful than the blow had been. A strong hand was on my back, and I could feel the man’s body over mine as he leaned forward, pressing the horse onward. I opened my eyes, but shut them again swiftly when I was greeted by the upside-down view of the hoof-whipped ground bolting by.

Just when we seemed to be slowing and I dared to open my eyes again, I felt the insistent tip of a blade at my back.

“We’re under orders not to kill you,” he said. “Not even to knock you out, your twin said. But anything short of that, we won’t hesitate, if you give us any trouble. I’ll start by slicing a finger off, and you’d better believe I wouldn’t even stop riding to do it. Understand, Cassandra?”

I tried to say yes, managed a breathless grunt.

We rode on. From the endless jolting and the hanging upside down, I was sick twice—the second time on his leather boot, I noted with some satisfaction. Cursing, he stopped his mount and hauled me upright, looping a rope around my body so that my arms were bound at my sides. Sitting in front of him, the pressure in my head was eased as the blood flowed back down to my body. The rope cut into my arms, but at least it held me steady, grasped firmly by the man at my back. We traveled that way for the rest of the day. At nightfall, when the dark was slipping over the horizon like a noose, we stopped briefly and dismounted to eat. Another of the men offered me bread, but I could manage only a few sips from the water flask, the water warm and musty. Then I was again hoisted up, in front of a different man now, his black beard prickling the back of my neck. He pulled a sack over my head, but in the darkness it made little difference.

I sensed the city in the distance, long before the clang of hoofs beneath us indicated that we’d reached paved roads. Through the sack covering my face, glints of light began to show. I could feel the presence of people all about me—more even than at Haven on market day. Thousands of them, I guessed. The road steepened as we rode on, slowly now, the hoofs noisy on cobbles. Then we halted, and I was passed, almost tossed, down to another man, who dragged me, stumbling, for several minutes, pausing often while doors were unlocked. Each time we moved on, I heard the doors being locked again behind us. Each scrape of a bolt sliding back was like another blow.

Finally, I was pushed down onto a soft surface. I heard a rasp of metal behind me, a knife sliding from a sheath. Before I had time to cry out, the rope around my body fell away, slit. Hands fumbled at my neck, and the sack was ripped from my head, the rough burlap grazing my nose. I was on a low bed, in a small room. A cell. There was no window. The man who’d untied me was already locking the metal door behind him.

Slumped on the bed, the taste of mud and vomit in my mouth, I finally allowed myself to cry. Partly for myself, and partly for my twin; for what he’d become.

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The Fire Sermon 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
tpolen More than 1 year ago
I had high expectations for this book and it's already been optioned for a movie.  The beginning of the book was fascinating, and this is a unique concept for a dystopian novel, but some things just didn't gel for me. The pacing during the first half of the book was pretty good, but the second half seemed to drag on.  The characters traveled a good bit in the story and much was written about the hardships of that travel - many times.  I found it very repetitive and skimmed through those pages. Cass's voice pulled me in immediately and I was anxious to learn more about her, but by the end of the book, I felt like she hadn't undergone much of a transformation - which was disappointing, because so much more could have been done with her character.  She repeated the same mantra over and over and it grew tiresome.  I'm hoping she'll have a stronger presence in the sequel. There were some wonderful plot twists toward the end, but I have to admit - I guessed what they were before the halfway point of the book and they seemed a little obvious.  The actions of some characters were inconsistent and, consequently, I didn't feel the same about them as Cass. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I read this book because the premise is unlike anything else I've read and the ramifications of both twins dying if one is killed is very thought-provoking.  Maybe I set the bar too high, but The Fire Sermon just came up a little short for me. This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.
Splashesintobooks1 More than 1 year ago
A great new saga is born! In this dystopian future, the big bang has caused devastation and deviations to our accepted norms. One such side effect is that every human pregnancy results in twins where one is ‘perfect’ (or alpha) and the other is thought to have some visible disability, malformation or is a seer. The other major side effect is that the death of one twin results in the death of their sibling twin. When the non-alpha twin is identified, they are branded with an omega on their forehead and ostracised. Despite their reliant on keeping their twin healthy for their own survival, the alpha twins are platting and making life increasingly difficult for their omegas. There are tales and rumours galore about omegas fighting back and about an island refuge where they can live peacefully and not under threat of alphas. The story is told from the viewpoint of Cass, an omega seer whose twin brother becomes a prominent member of the Alpha council. He seeks to imprison her, supposedly to protect both herself and him. This is a tale of sibling rivalry gone rampantly wrong. It is full of great, easy to relate to, characters involved in a superb, fast paced roller coaster plot with adventures, escapades and encounters. It is a fascinating tale of a future that is well written, thoroughly entertaining and enthralling - I highly recommend it! Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too, for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like other reviewers of this book, I had high expectations. Unfortunately, they proved to be unfounded. While the writing is lyrical and the language is beautiful, the plot is tedious, predictable, and unimaginative. The only thing that saves this story from being a total loss is the lyrical voice of the author. What didn't work for me: the illogical and poorly conceived plot structure, the redundancy of the journey, the convenience of the main character's nebulous magical abilities (they managed to be inconsistent and suddenly conducive to whatever situation needed a quick solution), and the impractical austerity of the world concept. The author was not able to suspend my disbelief to such an extent that these pieces worked for me. Instead, they were all discordant notes that worked against the harmony of her narration. I probably will not bother with the sequel. Having said that, I believe the story will play out fabulously on the movie screen and look forward to seeing it in live-action - on DVD.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with some of the reviews "The Fire Sermon" received. At times there is too much of the same repeated over and over. Still, I enjoyed the concept and plot.
AudiobookReviewer More than 1 year ago
It would seem that if you compare a new book to the Hunger Games my interest will be piqued. Maybe I am a sucker, maybe I simply yearn for another series that will completely transport me to another reality. The Fire Sermon did just what I wanted it to, in the beginning that is. The Earth has been transformed by nuclear war or fallout or something to that effect. The remaining survivors have been plagued with an interesting dilemma. There are no more only children, there are only twins being born. What Haig has termed as an Alpha and an Omega. Alpha’s are perfect in every way and the Omega’s are deformed in some fashion and it is not always obvious. The Omega’s are driven from the normal society because everyone is afraid of them, or their deformities. Here’s the real kicker. If your twin dies, you die. It is that simple. Beyond this interesting take on a post apocalyptic storyline it is a basic rebellion story. The outcasts form their own society and become overcome with hatred for those that shunned them. They rise up to try and smash those they hate and in the process loose many of their ranks. I kept listening because I wanted something spectacular to happen. For me, it didn’t. Fairly shallow characters that left some to be desired. There was a love triangle that was contrived by Haig and never really developed. I didn’t see the ending coming, right away, and was a good conclusion to the first book in this series. Not sure if I will continue on with it or not. If you are craving a young adult post apocalyptic audiobook with fantastic narration, The Fire Sermon will quench it. Even though the story left a little to be desired. Where The Fire Sermon really shines is with the performance by Lauren Fortgang. From the first second she was able to grab my attention and wouldn’t let go. There have been only a handful of narrators that I would be happy listening to them read tax law or the phone book, Fortgang is now one of them. Audiobook provided for review by the publisher. Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it and will read more of the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the plot!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hate ths book
SmalltownSR More than 1 year ago
A good story, I look forward to the second story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great dystopian work of fiction. Will be made into a movie by Dreamworks. I can't wait for the second book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. Looking forward to the next 2.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago