Book Review: The Call (Peadar Ó Guilín)
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release Date: September 1st 2016
Summary (from Goodreads):
What if you only had 3 minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down…
Nessa, Megan and Anto know that any day now they wake up alone in a horrible land and realise they’ve been Called.
Like all teenagers they know that they’ll be hunted down and despite all their training only 1 in 10 will survive.
And Nessa can’t run, her polio twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call will she?
Oh my god, where to start with this one.
I heard a bit about this around Twitter last year, thought it sounded interesting and stuck it on my wishlist. When the in laws bought it for me for Christmas I decided it was going to be the first of my new books that I read. On reading the blurb, I thought it sounded kind of Hunger Games-esque, which is great as I loved that series.
I adored this book. I read it in two days, balancing the book when breastfeeding, taking extended lunch breaks at work so I could squeeze in another chapter. I moaned to Nathan when we got home that I didn’t want to make dinner or do adult things: I just wanted to finish it.
Ireland has been cut off from the rest of the world and are being punished for something their ancestors did years ago: banishing the Sidhe to the Grey Land. Now, all teenagers in Ireland will get the Call: they’ll vanish for 3 minutes and 4 seconds, and they’ll probably come back dead. Only 1 in 10 survive. Irish children are trained in special schools from the age of 10 to survive their call, but the Irish are still dying out. With odds like that, what chance does Nessa, with her polio twisted legs, have?
There’s been a lot of books that pit teenagers against certain death in the last few years, but this is easily one of the best in my opinion. I think that Ó Guilín really captured one of the most important elements in horror stories to me: inevitability. The chances of survival are so small. The Call can happen at any time and you’ll never be prepared for it, no matter how hard you train. So many times when characters were Called I just felt this sense of hoplessness because I was pretty sure they were about to die.
The Sidhe themselves are formidable villains. They’re beautiful creatures who take pleasure in the pain and fear they cause, and even when it’s caused to them: when the teenagers fight back they’re often applauded for good tactics or killing a Sidhe, which is just creepy. And then there’s what they do to the children. They all know not to let the Sidhe touch them, because the Sidhe take pleasure into morphing the children into what they call ‘beautiful’ creations. I won’t spoil any here but it’s really twisted and grim. Even those that survive don’t get a happily ever after: often they’ve been twisted by the Sidhe, or scarred by what they’ve seen in the Grey Land.
While we’re really following Nessa’s story, the book switches view point a lot, which is great as it means you get to see each characters Call and their time in the Grey Land. I loved Nessa as a protagonist: she has even worse odds than the rest of them, but she’s so determined to survive. I admired her spirit and I believed she could do it, not just because she was the main character and would probably survive, but because she was smart and wanted to live so much. I also liked the image she’d created for herself: cold and a bit aloof, because she didn’t want to get close to anyone who she knew would probably die. Despite this, she has a close friend in Megan, who breaks all the rules that Nessa keeps, and Anto, who worms his way into her thoughts even when she tries to keep him at bay.
I also loved the human villain of the book, Connor and his Knights. It was interesting to see him try and keep control of his group of elites when they started being Called and realised they were not the group of survivors they thought they were.
I can’t sing this books praises enough. It was everything I wanted it to be and even though I’ve just finished it, I want to read it again. I’m lending it to my sister and have a list of people to pass it on to next. If you’re looking for something twisted and grim, with unforgettable characters, then this is your book.