It only takes a spark.
The much-anticipated third novel from Tommy Wallach has finally arrived! For those of you who have read his other two books, Thanks for the Trouble and We all Looked Up, you will not be disappointed. Although Wallach has taken a different route from his usual style, he still hasn’t lost his knack for wrapping you up through his storytelling.
SYNOPSIS | 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.”
If this synopsis sounds interesting, I implore you to stop reading this post immediately and go to your local bookstore to pick up a copy. You have been forewarned as there are spoilers below!
Character development is one of the strongest qualities of this book. Wallach uses the same writing style and point of view that was used in his first book, We all Looked Up. Every chapter sees a new character shedding light on how each one reacts to the current situation they’re in, thus helping the reader dive deeper into how they are feeling at any given point in time. This creates that empathy towards said characters, making us emotionally involved in their personal stories.
The second wonderful quality of this book is how engaging the plot is from the very beginning. The book begins with a story within the story. Essentially, there are two cities—the Anchor and Sophia. The Anchor is the original, and the citizens focus all of their efforts on God and religion. The have a space called the Library, dedicated to the study and practice of all things religion. All is great in the Anchor until a certain scholar finds the cure for a disease that has been plaguing the people for quite some time. However, the church forbids the man to distribute and produce the cure, saying it is “interfering with God’s will.” The man decides to leave and create his own city, “Sophia” where science and knowledge reign supreme.
As you can probably deduce, the two cities have a strong animosity towards each other, which is the basis for the entire series.
As stated in the synopsis, Strange Fire is set in a post-apocalyptic era, where there are two sides of belief. Science and religion. When writing about this topic, it is very difficult to put your own beliefs aside and write unbiased. Many authors I have found struggle with this, and you almost get the sense that they are leaning one way or the other. This is simply not the case for Wallach. He tackles both sides of the debate masterfully, and truly relates to both through his characters. We come to know the inner struggle that happens inside of each character as they question what they believe. Wallach does a fine job (as he does in all of his novels) of giving his readers a character to relate to. To root for or root against. I found myself realising that I too have had these same struggles, making the characters and plot even more engaging.
Moral dilemmas are also another theme that Strange Fire touches on. Brother against brother. Lover against lover. Friend against friend. Each character has some sort of struggle they have to overcome personally. Unfortunately, this sometimes involves hurting the people they care about the most. It is interesting throughout the book to follow how each character deals with and overcomes (or doesn’t) their struggles. There of course is the larger battle against cities, in which the characters must choose a side, but there is also an inner battle that must be fought as well.
This book deserves a 7/10 rating. I enjoyed how the book is derivative of the Bible and how the foundation of the novel is built from it. Wallach did a solid job of developing the characters and creating an engaging plot, however, there were some dry moments. About halfway through the book you find yourself wanting the plot to speed up and some of the most important parts of the book also felt rushed. There were some areas where Wallach should have went into more detail, and other areas where he was maybe a little too detailed. Nonetheless, Strange Fire proves to be a very satisfying read. If you’re looking for an easy-read that will whisk you away from the mundane world, look no further. Wallach’s gift for storytelling will be sure to leave you vehemently clamouring for the next book in the series!