The Call is the newest novel by Peadar O’Guilin, an Irish novelist most commonly known for his series that begins with The Inferior. Several years ago, The Inferior became my favourite book of the year. When I learned that O’Guilin had a new book coming out, I immediately grew excited. I could not wait to see what he did.
In the world of The Call, Ireland has become a target of the Sidhe; a race of ancient faeries hellbent on eradicating the population. For over two decades, the Sidhe has been steadily calling the teens from our world into the Grey Land. After the teen is called, they arrive among the Sidhe naked, defenseless, and must fight to keep their own lives intact. They are frequently consumed or severely altered by the Sidhe, those surviving the Call frequently enduring years of PTSD and horrifying bodily modifications. To this end, several schools have formed across Ireland to train the teens in different forms of survival and combat. Only the best will survive the Call -a pass of time that only spans three minutes in our world.
Nessa is not one of the lucky expected to survive. Possessing two legs twisted by polio she must learn to use every means at her disposal to survive the Call. Underestimated by her peers, she is bullied constantly, finding herself at the center of their enmity, scorn, and torment. There is a group of the elite who view her as a waste of resources and attempt to remove her before the Call can do so. Now, Nessa must be on guard at all times from every possible threat within, and without, of her home.
There’s a specific tone to this book that carries throughout the narrative; a bleak look at a future in which children are sacrificed for the greater good. In that aspect, it is reminiscent of many of the popular contemporary Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult novels of our time. However, because of the heavy reliance of mythology and the usage of traditional folklore, it reads as something completely new. It is a competition novel yet it’s not. It is Science Fiction and yet it’s not. It’s Horror and yet it’s not. It’s a very original book in a time where many others are carbon copies of one another.
There are a lot of side characters to follow in this book. However, there are a few main protagonists to keep your eyes on. Nessa is the obvious one but there is also Anto, a boy who has captured her attentions. Her closest friend Megan also plays a large part in this story as does Conor; the uncontested head of the elite Knights of Boyle Survival College. Between these four, the plot and character dynamics become really rich and layered; nuanced in a way that is not always pretty or easy to read. They also conjointly make up some of the best parts of the book.
It felt good to be back in O’Guilin’s head after so many years outside of it. He has a particular skill at creating memorable horrifying moments that make your skin crawl. Immediately, I felt at home in this world, squeamish and groaning with glee at some of his more memorably written images. It’s clear that O’Guilin likes to play with the reader; to guide them through worlds that are not always pretty, nor should they be. This technique helps to highlight how flawed that everyone is from the smallest character to the biggest. I really appreciate how human his characters are and how humanely he treats them. It really helps to round out the good from the bad, the evil and the benign. It also makes me wonder who are the real villains in his world?
There are a few things that made the book less than perfect for me, most notably the ending. Suffice it to say, the novel did not go where I expected, nor, perhaps, wanted it to. It made for a bit of surprise but, in tandem, an element of disappointment. That said, it was a gripping read from start to finish and I enjoyed it. I thought I was over this type of novel but when it is done in this way, with this level of newness and tone, I can get on board. The Call is one of those novels that will stand out from this period of YA fiction and I suggest that you pick up a copy immediately and devour it this weekend. I know that’s what I would do, were I given the opportunity to read it again for the first time.
4 out of 5 stars.
– Follow the Reader –