“The silver landscape falls away in front of her like a scroll with a map drawn on it. fairyland in its entirety: lakes of red fire, the only colour here, spewing and bubbling in the distance; forests growing terrible fruits; tornadoes, that look like a giant’s fingers digging into the soil; scattered lightning; burning rains and murderous flora of every kind…we banished them here. No wonder they hate us.”
– Peadar O’Guilin, The Call
What if you only had three minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down… Three minutes: You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. You realise you’ve been Called. Two minutes: They’re getting closer and despite all your training you’re exhausted, you can’t see anywhere to hide. One minute: You’re glad you can run… Nessa can’t, her polio-twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call will she? Suddenly, a hand grabs your wrist and it’s more painful than anything you have ever experienced before in your life… Time’s up. Could you survive The Call?
Before a review copy of The Call by Peadar O’Guilin appeared in my letterbox, I had heard many interesting things, including claims it was a genuine rival for The Hunger Games. It was one of those books I had to sit with for a while after finishing it before I could make up my mind whether I liked it or not. I’m not a fan of anything related to horror and so I was slightly apprehensive to start this book in the first place! It is really creepy… but also really good!
From age 10, the Irish youth are expected to attend survival college, where they train military-style in order to increase their chances of surviving the Call. Since the Sídhe were banished from our world to the hellish Grey Lands they have been seeking revenge by pulling the Irish youth into their world. Three minutes and four seconds translates to a full day in the Grey Lands where the youth must run from the peculiar talents of the Sídhe, talents that lend themselves perfectly to torture! When the youth vanish, they rarely survive. And if they do, they’re never the same.
Fourteen-year-old Nessa is a student at Boyle Survival College and is completely dedicated to saving her own life. She is focused and determined, only slightly hindered by a rare childhood case of polio that crippled her legs. She doesn’t let her disability hold her back and she definitely doesn’t ask for sympathy. Her only friend Megan is confident, witty and very protective of Nessa and Anto – Nessa’s crush – provides some light relief as the class joker. Her other classmates are not so nice and Nessa must watch her back while preparing for the Call – who will get to her first?
The Call is a great blend of dystopia, fantasy, Irish mythology and horror. O’Guilin’s world building is excellent; it is imaginative and gruesome and perfectly paced. The tension and emotion builds with each call and the characters are explored in a really interesting way. Their motivations and allegiances reflect more than just friendship with some underlying observations on class coming out and it makes the reader question who the true villains are. The closest it comes to The Hunger Games, and similar titles, is the way the military-style training of the characters ends with them shedding the blood of their classmates and friends. The students live in a world of manipulation, death and bloodshed; the violence reminded me a little of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. The Sídhe are vicious and frightening and I really enjoyed seeing the dark side of the fae. I have always liked stories of fairies and I must admit this what what drew me in! I think this book definitely falls further towards horror than science fiction. It is quite horrifying and not for the faint-hearted! Overall, it is a really good read!
AUTHOR: Peadar O’Guilin
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Australia
PUB DATE: September 2016
Thank you to Scholastic Australia for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!