*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Strange Fire
Author: Tommy Wallach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world. The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.
Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother. Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.
In Wallach’s Strange Fire, humanity has been wiped out and the society that remains has been divided in into those of the Descendancy who follow the Church of Father, Daughter, and Holy Gravity, those in the city of Sophia who seek to understand the ways and technology of the society that came before them, and the Wesah warrior women. These societies all run counter to one another, but their limited population makes it impossible for one group to gain the upper hand over the others in this new world, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Those of the Descendancy shun the “anathema” — the technology that those in Sophia possess and are developing. The Church believes in only the Father and the Daughter and spreading the Holy message to all. Those in Sophia thing the Descendancy to be primitive and embrace learning and development. Lastly, the Wesah run a matriarchal society that operates on strength and often violence to survive. Each group keeps it’s own lands and borders and seeks to expand its following.
First off, I loved this cover. I think it really encapsulates the theme of this story–the contrast between the technology that is only just beginning to be rediscovered and the stark shunning of all advancement by a society that more closely resembles what we’d recognize as 18th or 19th Century civilization. The story is really neat, envisioning a post-disaster world where surviving peoples have reverted to extremes in order to re-establish societies and traditions. We only get a small glimpse into this world as our characters only have a small perspective and do not have the ability to go beyond the boundaries of their small world.
I did find the book to be pretty slow moving as a whole. I almost walked away from it a few times. I can’t say what the final version looks like, but my advanced copy was printed in a terrible difficult font to read. I found myself getting a little squinty–which is not something I’ve ever noticed while reading, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that part of the experience with this book.
In terms of plot, there’s not a ton of action, and even the action that does occur is short lived and has little build up. This book is first in a series though, so perhaps Wallach’s intention was to focus on world-building and to build more action into the next book. But for as interesting as this plot sounded, it was a little sleepy. I didn’t find any of the characters to be too interesting. Paz piqued my interest as her whole character is based on deception and she’s a strangely detached, manipulative, and unemotional character. The remaining characters, however, fell a bit flat for me. I was most intrigued by the premise of this book, but I can’t say I’m motivated to continue reading.
From the research I’ve done on Goodreads, it seems like people, as a whole, are enjoying this book. Wallach fans are super excited and eager to read it. I think it’s worth a shot. I didn’t love it, but I think that many others do. I’d encourage you to try it and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear some differing opinions! 🙂