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When Francesca Haig’s first novel in the Fire Sermon Series came out I got to read and review the book. Francesca has posited a good conundrum in her post-apocalyptic science fiction series. What happen when after a presumed nuclear war the survivors are only born as twins? The first, the healthy child, is designated as an Alpha and given all the benefits which his or her society can offer.
The second child is inevitably deformed. Sometimes this deformation is objectively obvious, as a clubbed foot, too many eyes. In the case of the series heroine, Cass, the alteration has turned her into a seer, someone who has visions of the future. Because it is determined to be an aberration she is classed as an Omega, a second class citizen at best, a class of humanity to be both shunned and exploited.
That part of the world, which is known to Cass, is ruled by the Council, of which her brother Zach is a part of. Not that this means that she is accorded any special treatment, but neither is she allowed to be injured or killed, because the twins have a further unique characteristic. From birth both the Omega and Alpha twins are not only distorted mirror images of each other, they are also connected at the most basic level, kill one twin and the second also dies.
The Map of Bones (2016. 441 pages) takes up the story directly after the events in The Fire Sermon (2015). Cass has escaped the room in which she had been kept by her brother, she has discovered that not only is there a resistance, but where they are located. Unfortunately, the place is destroyed not long after her arrival. More chillingly she has discovered that the council have accessed forbidden technology from before the Blast and intend to use this to create tanks in which to hold all the Omegas in a form of suspended animation which Cass realises is little better than a slow lingering decent into madness and death.
When the latest novel opens, Cass is on the run with Zoe and Piper, seemingly helpless and hopeless. The first novel did a good job of setting up the world and with the new book the world building continues to impress as Haig opens up the canvas by both adding a significant discovery from the past, but also a potential source of help in the present. Both elements are neatly tied together. We also discover that not only have the resistance not been eradicated, but with the appropriate allies it still has teeth enough to challenge the council.
For a young adult novel the writing continues to impress. Yes, there are relationships and loves to be got through, but these are expertly woven into the story itself. You never feel that everyone has just stopped to talk about their feelings.
As the second of three books the novel not only sets up the final confrontation but also introduces many interesting new player and places which, no doubt will play a part in the series' final novel.
Another plus point is that the story is not half bad science fiction, if you take away the idea of seeing the future; none of the characters are imbued with anything special from their mutations. The world has a consistent and understandable internal logic to it and overall the clarity of Haig’s writing means that the story would easily lend itself to a film adaptation.