After the Fire Review

After the Fire
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Early copy courtesy of Usborne (Released June 1st 2017)

"The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade".

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She's starting to see the lies behind Father John's words. She wants him to be found out.

What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?

It's been a very long time since I've read a book like this. I'm not even sure how a review can even begin to do a book this good justice. In short: it won't, but I'll try. I spoke to Will Hill back in February around reviewing his book as I'd seen the synopsis and was desperate to read it. I've always been fascinated by cults and the power that controls them so I connected with this book from the first chapter.

The story focuses on 17 year old Moonbeam and the chapters alternate between before the fire and after the fire. In the chapters before, you really get to know in detail about her time within "The Fence" and the horrors she had to live through, being a part of this cult. In the chapters after, Moonbeam is with a psychiatrist and we get taken down the path of how Moonbeam's journey unfolded.

Moonbeam is raised in the middle of a desert, cut off from society and the outside world as she has been taught that outside "The Fence" is a bad place, filled with bad people. Moonbeam has lived here for as long as she can remember and is led by Father John, who is essentially a cult leader. Most of the people there believe John's every word and believe they must stay here with Father John as he has been chosen by God to represent them all. Very few of them have doubts, they're dangerous and deadly, but Moonbeam is one of them.

Father John dictates what happens as he has been "told" by God. Father John has 4 Centurions that have been "chosen" by God and they are essentially Father John's minions and will do whatever he asks. This includes things like abuse, neglect and rape. All themes that are explored in great detail in this book. There were a lot of moments where I'd find a tear rolling down my cheek at the horrors that not only the adults, but the children had to endure because they didn't know any better and had been brainwashed to believe it was right.

Father John has a set of wives. If you're chosen to be one of his wives, you have to stay celibate until you're 18 and able to marry him because he wants you in your purest form (not that women get a say who does what to them). Moonbeam's mum pretty much begs Father John to take Moonbeam as his wife, as it's such a coveted role. Moonbeam is chosen from a very young age and awaits the day her life will somehow get worse. This part of the story honestly made my stomach churn but there is a lot more to this part of the story than there seems...

For me, the main theme of the book was control. Whether it was Father John's control over these people or Moonbeam trying to get some kind of control back in her life; everyone is driven by it in their own way; which made the book so fascinating to me. How control can just utterly consume your life. What I really loved was the control that Moonbeam got back when talking to her psychiatrist. She could choose what she told him and when and for someone that's never had control of anything in her life, this was monumental and it was written so beautifully, that you truly believed in her character.

In the present day, the children that survived the fire are in a rehabilitation unit and seeking the help they need to take back some of the innocence that they were never given. Some find this a lot easier to get back than others...

I feel like I've written so much but I feel like there's so much more to say. Moonbeam truly was a gorgeous character and I haven't connected to a character like that, especially a female lead, since Paige Mahoney in The Bone Season series. I loved with her, I cried with her, everything she felt, I felt along with her. I invested in her and rooted for her right until the very end, praying she got the ending that she deserved and I think that's how Will hoped she'd come across.

It is a truly shocking book and I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers, it's definitely a mature book but I guess it depends on your maturity. Although some of the content was difficult to read and some of it was hard-hitting, it all contributed to making the book feel real, which is something so many books lack nowadays. I'm so excited to meet Will at YALC now and express to him how much I adored this book and I hope you do too.

No comments