Published: January 3, 2017
The fireman is coming. Stay cool.
No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.
Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.
In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.
The Fireman, follows a nurse named Harper as a deadly pandemic called Dragonscale spreads across the world. Hosts of the spore break out in elaborate black and gold rashes before bursting into flames, burning to death and taking down anything near them. When Harper develops Dragonscale marks after becoming pregnant, she finds a group of the infected that have learned to control the flames, including a man known as The Fireman, who can manipulate the fire within him as a weapon.
After being taken Camp Wyndham, where she discovers a whole group of the infected are hiding out from roving cremation crews and vigilantes (which later includes her deranged husband). There, she learns something startling: they’ve learned how to prevent the infection from burning them up. Not only that, Dragonscale seems to allow them to connect on a deep, communal level. The Fireman can even control the flames on his body. Their hideaway has become a refuge where they have formed a safe, small ocean of calm in the midst of a burning New England.
When Harper comes to the camp, it seems like the safest place for her and her unborn child. She learns how to control the infection on her body, and has access to shelter and food. As the months drag on, the tension only increases for the group. When the camp’s de facto leader, Father Storey, is mysteriously attacked, the residents place his daughter Carol in charge.
Under Carol, the camp turns into a dark place, and this is where the novel really gets its feet under it. Eager to help ensure everyone’s safety, paranoid and unwilling to relinquish power, the camp becomes a place where there’s only one voice: hers, and Harper is forced to navigate a tenuous existence in her new home.
Complicating matters is Dragonscale itself: it allows the infected to connect with others – it’s not quite telepathy, but a sort of group mind. In perfect situations, it could form the basis for the utopian society that everyone at Camp Wyndham envisions. With the wrong personalities in charge, that utopia becomes a dystopia quickly.
I won’t tell you the outcome but there are tear-jerker parts and a semi cliffhanger at the end.
Five stars. Loved it even with all the Mary Poppins references!