Title: After the Fire
Author: Will Hill
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st June 2017
Pages: 496, paperback
Genre: YA, contemporary, cult fiction, thriller
‘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?
This is another book that has been on my shelf for ages, just waiting for me to pick it up. I find books about cults immensely fascinating, so I was very excited to read After the Fire. I started this book at around three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, and proceeded to spend the rest of the day reading it. I was utterly gripped from start to finish.
Obviously, there is a huge amount of psychology behind cults, and After the Fire showed this completely. All of the characters were so complex, and their psychological damage so harrowing, it was impossible not to become entirely absorbed in the story. Although he was awful, I loved Luke, purely for the depth his character was given; through Moonbeam’s eyes, we see her figuring out the minds of everyone around her, and it all feels very smart.
Of course, this wasn’t meant to just be an interesting book – the story is quite tragic. There were parts of the story that were very difficult to read, as the way the children in the compound were treated was horrific. And what made it even worse was that they were totally oblivious, and accepted everything that happened to them as normal, as ‘God’s will’. Moonbeam’s evident struggle between her head and her heart, whilst undoubtedly interesting, also evoked huge amounts of empathy from me as a reader. On the one hand, her more rational side knew that her life in the Legion was built on lies, but that didn’t stop a lifetime of indoctrination from dictating her opinions for a long time. She had to break down barriers in her mind that were put in place by Father John, and learn to trust these ‘Outsiders’, and I loved seeing her grow as a character, and gain the strength to tell her story.
The story itself was told in the most brilliant way: Moonbeam’s retelling of what happened Before was interspersed with her time spent in hospital, seeing a psychiatrist, After. I loved this, as it meant that whilst Moonbeam’s story was being told, we could see the reactions of the two adults present, as well as Moonbeam’s herself. This was really immersive, and it meant that the book was ended perfectly, as the two plotlines were brought together.
After the Fire is a book with a stunning plot and strong characters; the themes of power, deceit and devotion laced throughout the story were utterly fascinating, and I could hardly wait to turn each page!