The Map of Bones – Francesca Haig

I fell in love with the first book in this series but when it came to the sequel, I was sadly disappointed and saw myself at times skim reading a few chapters, nevertheless, there were many parts of the novel that I enjoyed especially the fact that even from the first page we are thrown back into the action. Francesca Haig once again throws you into a world of conflict, betrayal, hope and despair and likes to keeps the reader on their toes as the plot thickens – every time I think I know what is coming she throws me a curveball. If you haven’t read the first book then I will link my review here!

Following on immediately in the aftermath of part one, we join up with Cass and the resistance for the next part of their intense and often emotional journey. Determined to stop her brother fulfilling his twisted plans for what is left of humanity, Cass must uncover the mysterious of the before whilst trying to prevent the plans of the Council. What really makes this series for me is the captivating writing, gorgeous yet sometimes haunting descriptions and the emotive storytelling that keeps me fully invest in our characters and their journey. Being able to see more of the post-apocalyptic world Haig ahs created was also interesting and enjoyable as well as learning more about the bleak history of the surviving generations of the before.

We are also introduced to a whole range and dynamic of new characters as well as learning more about ones we saw in the first book, especially my favourites Piper and Zoe. I loved them in the first book and I enjoyed the fact that we got to learn more about them and their past in the second book as well as seeing their relationship with Cass develop. I’ve warmed up to Cass more in this book and I still live for those confrontation scenes with her brother because they are so heart-stopping and suspenseful.

Once again I’ve reached the end of the book and found myself demanding what happens next and fearful for the unknown and the fate of these characters who I love! I am now left waiting in excitement the next book in the series because Haig has left us on a cliffhanger with so many possibilities and I can’t wait to see where Cass, Piper and Zoe all end up!

The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig

I was given the honour of interviewing Francesca a few months ago but we mainly focused on her poetry which is absolutely stunning and I highly recommend you check out. Anyway, she used to be a senior lecturer at the University of Chester until she wrote her first YA dystopian novel ‘The Fire Sermon’! It was from meeting her and the fact that she used to teach at my university (I wish she still did) which encouraged me to pick up her book but that did mean I went in with high expectations!

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire and the effects of the radiation have caused every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way and seen as superior in society – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large and branded as the lesser human. However, 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.

I found the concept of having an Alpha and Omega with the lifeline connection really interesting and made the plot and the relationship between characters more complex. As for Cass, I loved her relationship and constant fight with her brother but I wasn’t a fan of her and didn’t really see much character development, but hopefully, there will be more in the second book. I wasn’t much of a fan of the relationship between Cass and Kip either, just because I felt it was a bit forced and wasn’t very swoon worthy, nevertheless, they helped each other in numerous ways but I think they should have just stayed friends.

I’m in love with Haig’s writing which is just beautiful and I’m glad we get to see her gift of creating obscure but realistic and unique metaphors in her prose. When reading I picked up on a McCarthy ‘The Road’ vibe and influence because this world is dark but Haig portrays it in such a wonderful way with enough information to outline a scene but still leaving a few elements for our imagination to discover and create. If I’m being picky, I felt there were a couple of times where she could have shortened the prose as sometimes it dragged on and I reckon they would have been more effective if they were shorter.

The ending. Did I see it coming, well not all of it! I had a bit of an inkling at the beginning of the book but I dismissed the idea because it didn’t seem plausible but Haig cleverly made it work and left me in awe at the end of the first book, so much so I went and picked up the second book as soon as I finished; I’m now addicted to this series and these characters. When reading other reviews, many have commented on how everything just wraps up and the fact that we are given all the answers which I agree does ruin it a bit but I can guarantee that it by no means is it a dull ending.

All in all, this series has potential and I can’t wait to jump into the second book and I’m happy to give it 4/5 stars. If you’re looking for a unique dystopian novel then this one is just for you, as it’s got a really interesting storyline and character relationships that will hopefully keep you hooked.

An Interview with Francesca Haig

The other day I was given the opportunity to attend an interview and question and answer session with Francesca Haig who is well known for being a previous senior lecturer at the University of Chester, her various collections of poetry and her very successful young adult novel ‘The Fire Sermon’ which has been picked up by Dreamworks to be made into a film. The event went really well and I loved hearing more about her poetry so much so that it now enables me to view it from a different perspective and in an entirely new light.

We began the discussion, by asking who her main influences were when writing her poetry and novels and they included the famous American and confessional poet Anne Saxton, Cormac McCarthy especially his post-apocalyptic novel ‘The Road’ and finally, the English poet Ted Huges. Her response to all our questions was delivered with such enthusiasm and passion for writing, which was one of the things that I enjoyed the most from being able to talk to her, that and the fact that from listening to what she had to say enabled me to gain a deeper and more emotional insight to her poetry.

We discussed mainly her early poetry, which is predominantly confessional and tends to focus a lot on her sister and her sister’s eating disorder especially in her poem Koonya, Tasman Penisula. I’ve never truly appreciated the purpose of line breaks and structure within poems, however, when discussing them in this poem I was able to discover a more emotional and heartbreaking tone as well as discovering a completely different meaning to various lines. So despite the fact that most of her poetry is free verse and isn’t limited to any structure, the importance of structure isn’t less important or exciting. Additionally, Haig has a gift for metaphors and her advice for creating a good and effective metaphor was for it to be different but plausible and you will know it’s successful when people envy your writing!

I wanted to share one of my favourites from her collection and just show off how beautiful and emotive her poetry is. Koonya, Tasman Penisula is a poem about her sister, which focus on the condition anorexia and its impact on the poet as the involved observer:

Koonya, Tasman Penisula

The tide retreats,
the beach exhales its crabs
Translucent, a stranded jellyfish hold
its coloured centre like a
foetus in a lab jar.
We watch the floating gulls
threaded on the horizon

and imagine the safety of distance.
Lying on your back next to me,
your hip bones are the fins
of two sharks circling closely.
Your ribs are the ridged edge
of a stack of plates.
How close we are

to throwing up the
white flag of our palms.
You shift your driftwood legs
and dream of suicide.
We are too
exhausted to deny
the lone tern’s cry.

My favourite line from this poem, in particular, is ‘How close we are // to throwing up / the white palms of our hands’ as from a first reading without the line/stanza breaks it just shows the theme and feeling of surrender. However, if we take each line on its own it presents something much more emotional and meaningful. ‘How close we are’ can be linked with the relationship and the bond her and her sister share and the statement of love. But with the stanza break and the lines ‘To throwing up the / white flag of our palms’ presents the idea of frustration and that the speaker is giving up on her sister. For me, this is the beauty of poetry and one of the things I admire the most about good poets is their ability to evoke various emotions from their work and formation of words. One day I hope I can be as good as them.

This post was a little different that anything I’d done before but I really wanted to share my experience and I’m sorry if it felt more like an analysis than a blog post. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever read any of her works or what you thought of them.