It can be easy to read the blurb of 'The Fire Sermon' and think, 'when will this plethora of Dystopian fiction end?' as much as with vampire fiction did at the Twilight-peak days. But this is a YA Dystopian fiction you don't want to miss.
In a post-apocalyptic world torn apart by the Blast (presumably a nuclear disaster, but it's never explicit) the world becomes strictly divided. Everyone is born as twins - one perfect (the Alpha), one with some kind of imperfection (the Omega), seen or unseen.
Cassie is one of the Omegas whose claimed imperfection is hidden. She is a seer, a fact which she desperately attempts to hide from her twin, Zach, and her parents. And, for thirteen years - a record - she manages to do so until Zach, frustrated by the ostracism of their unsplit-ness, calls her on it. She is thus sent away and lives fairly quietly for a few years until men come for her to take her away.
She is taken to the Keeping Rooms, a place where powerful Alphas - one of which Zach has now become - keep their Omega twins, lest they be used against them. For almost four years Cassie doesn't even get to glimpse the outside, and is routinely mentally tortured by a powerful Omega called 'The Confessor' until she is finally able to devise an escape plan.
But she doesn't escape on her own. Having discovered a room full of tanks that keep Omegas in them she manages to free a boy close to her own age who does not remember anything about his former life. She calls him Kip and together, they break free and make for the island, a rumoured refuge for Omegas, knowledge of which The Confessor has been probing Cassie's mind for.
What makes this book different from other YA Dystopian fiction is its treatment of a particular issue, rather than just another oppressed heroine rising up to beat 'the system'. Its treatment of disability is bold, of the evils of segregation passionate, and Cassie's daring to hope that the divide might be stopped, audacious. For when one twin dies, so does the other. Cassie is pretty much the only character who sees that one death is not really one death, but two. The other good and different thing is that Haig does not cling onto characters for sentimental reasons - if it's necessary and logical for them to be let go of, then they are. Neither are the twists too 'out there' to be plausible, and when you work them out, you wonder how you didn't know all along.
Pace, plot and characterisation are well-wrought and managed, particularly the rise and fall of action vs lulls that are little more than temporary breathers for Cassie and Kip.
Overall, an outstanding debut novel, its sequel eagerly anticipated.