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?
I had seen a fellow blogger rave about this book so I took the chance and ordered it with an amazon order I placing, it was on sale for £4, total bargain! It lay on my shelves for a few months before I finally picked it up…and wow, I’m writing this now in a complete book hangover, because it was brilliant!
After the by Will Hill is a psychological thriller which focuses on 17 year old Moonbeam coming to terms with the horrors and experiences she lived through while growing up as a member of The Lords Legion, a extremely religious cult.
The opening to the book shows us a glimpse of what happens at the end of her being in the compound of The Lords Legion, the fire. From this gripping opening, the rest of the book follows Moonbeam’s process of dealing with the trauma and stress of what has happened to her: of the fire; of the cult; and of realising fully that she has been lied to and manipulated her whole life. The narrative switches between two different perspectives: Before the fire and After The Fire. After is Moonbeam as she begins her process and treatment with Dr Hernandez and tells her story to FBI Agent Carlyle, answering the questions he’s asking, slowly at first, we see her debate with herself after full reluctance at first, we can see the worry that she feels about telling the truths, the worry of her getting into trouble. The Before parts tell and focus on the story of Moonbeam’s life in The Lord’s Legion, all of the events in the years and months and days leading up to the fire.
It is a truly gripping story, it’s brutal and tough to read at some parts, thinking about what Moonbeams and the rest of her ‘family’ went through all because they out there trust into Father John, who we can clearly see just wanted control and power.
There are many incidents leading up to the fire and throughout the fire that Moonbeam goes back to in her mind, we can see her give her truth to the two men priest by piece, we can see her worry about the trouble she might get into and the fear about what will happen to her next, and the other survivors who were all younger than her, only some of the children survived, no one else made it out.
Some of the scenes with the other children particularly were gut wrenching, the little minds so warped and so much fear bestowed on them that they didn’t really know how to be children, the older teenagers too, Luke in particular so was hard to read about, the parts of the story that included him honestly had me close to tears, I’ll give a warning that his story comes to a close in a very horrible way that I know many others would find harder to read than I did, it is told from Agent Carlyle’s voice and not played out, but it is still tough to read. I’m trying not to give away any spoilers, but I do feel that some people might struggle to read it, or it could be a trigger.
The characters were written so well, I immediately loved Moonbeams voice, the way her mind worked and her though process played out. The background characters were well written too, Nate was a favourite of mine. And I don’t think I have ever disliked a character like I did Father John, wow the way he was written was brilliant and how the other characters reacted to him also, Will created a brilliant group of characters that truly brought the story to life.
The book was so well written and plotted, I had absolutely no issues with it whatsoever. The focus on Moonbeam and the survivors make this a book about the effects on the survivors rather than a book about cults themselves.
After The Fire is very not an anti-religion novel, or even anti-cult necessarily. There is mention of an earlier time of The Lord’s Legion run by an old leader, who was mostly kind and fair, Father Patrick
The writing style was great, it was easy to read and even with it being quite a long book I managed to finish it quickly. Reading the authors notes at the end was quite sad, knowing that it was loosely based on a real event, I think Will did an excellent job with this book! I highly recommend it and will probably be forcing it upon my friends and other blogger friends! It is now one of my favourite ever reads, not my usual genre of book, but I was hooked right away and totally captivated. It also won the YA book prize the day I read it, and if that doesn’t tell you how much you need to read this book I don’t know what will! Well done Will, After The Fire truly deserved to win!