Review: The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

UK book cover of The Call by Peadar O'GuilinDo you have any idea what made me decide to read The Call in the first place? I must have seen it on somebody else’s blog because I purposefully scoured the shelves at the library trying to find it. I didn’t have high hopes (for the book, I mean, as I have the ultimate faith in the library, always). Possibly I was expecting a sort-of Hunger Games with fairies, which I fervently dislike. But no, I was wrong. The Call is a dark and twisted, fast-paced, action-packed novel that I was glued to for two whole days.

Plot summary: You have three minutes to save your life.

Nessa and her friends attend Boyle College to train for the most dangerous time of their lives – THE CALL. Without warning, each one of them will wake in a terrifying land, alone and hunted, with a one-in-ten chance of returning alive. No one believes Nessa can make it, but she is determined to prove them all wrong. And she will need every ounce of spirit and courage in order to survive . . .

Essentially, due to a long ago betrayal by the settlers of Ireland thousands of years ago, the Sidhe (pronounced ‘shee’) are extracting their revenge on modern-day citizens by transporting them, one unknown day in their teenage years, to the Grey Land. If they survive for three minutes, great. More commonly, however, the Sidhe transport their mangled remains for their loved ones to grieve over. To give the youths a fighting chance, Survival Schools spring up around Ireland to provide the teenagers with skill such as combat, field medicine, Sidhe language, etc. It’s at one of these schools that we find Nessa, a polio-riddled teenager whom nobody realistically expects to survive her eventual Call.

I started this on Friday morning on my commute. I read it for every second of the train journey, I read it stood on the platform and I read it on my lunchbreak. Then I went for dinner with a friend and read it whilst she was in the bathroom. I read it on the train journey back and, finally, I finished it in bed this morning. The Call took over my life. It even seriously occurred to me that I could cancel my dinner plans and go home with my book. Sorry, Helen.

The Call isn’t perfect, but it’s brilliant. It’s actually a fairly simple premise but it’s very well executed with a plausible and mythology-based backstory as to how the whole thing came about. The world was my absolute favourite thing about this novel. It’s not overly complex with annoying terminology and rules, but it’s riveting. Everybody has a different experience during their Call and I loved reading the different accounts of their desperate attempt to survive.

There are some very clever plot devices in this book. Obviously I can’t explain them without being all spoilery, but I was nodding with appreciation at some aspects. Megan’s method of getting her message across was particularly clever.

My only criticism would be that the characters are all pretty flat, including Nessa. The author’s talent definitely lies with world-building and not characterisation. Whilst I cared objectively whether each person lived or died, I can’t say that I was overly fussed from an emotional standpoint. They were all pretty samey and uninteresting. The author made some attempt to separate them from each other, but it wasn’t successful. The use of invented slang words annoyed me, as it always does. Nothing makes the dialogue go ‘clunk!’ like teenagers constantly swearing by some lost God’s ‘hairy tits.’

On that note, I don’t care particularly, but I will say that the language in this is pretty bad which is odd considering that I found it on the teen shelves at the library. There’s lots of ‘bitch,’ ‘tits,’ ‘whore’ and ‘slut,’ as a warning. Violence wise, it’s not actually too bad. It seems quite dark to begin with, but when you get into it, it remains merely Surface Dark. Alright, so teenagers are subjected to horrendous pain and their mangled remains suddenly appear in their place, but they’re never really described? The prose narrates the teenager’s experiences cleverly too – there’s enough detail so you know they’re in agony, but not enough to really scare you.

As an adult, I’d have loved more detail. A little more darkness. On consideration, the author has essentially walked a very clever balance between adult and young adult. It was dark enough that I enjoyed reading it, but not so dark that teenagers are going to shy away from it.

Have you read The Call? Do you think you’d survive your Call?

(I would most definitely not).

Comments

  1. I actually have never heard of this one o.o

    But this sounds interesting. Polio too? Wow, that’s a challenge. You’re actually making me interested in this book (it’s not easy to make me interested in YA xD).. Although the flat characters is sad, characters are so important to the story.

    And hell no, I would not survive it 😀

    1. Hanna @ Booking in Heels says:

      I’m not normally overkeen on YA either. This does feel like YA, if you know what I mean – simple prose etc – but it is actually worth it for the idea and the plot.

      Don’t get too hung up on the polio though – it’s just a device to make it reasonable for everyone to assume she’ll die. It’s never really explored, we just know that she has weak legs.

      Haha, me neither. My life skills are pretty much reading and being snarky…

  2. Yay for the fae! For YA, the language seems a bit graphic, but I guess it’s the norm for YA these days.

    1. Hanna @ Booking in Heels says:

      Is it!? I don’t read that much YA (although I read some, obviously) and I was quite surprised at the casual use of bad language. It’s very, very frequent!

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