The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
Published September 2016 by David Fickling Books
Source: Scholastic AU
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Three minutes... On her birthday, Nessa finds out the terrible truth about her homeland, Ireland - the truth that will change her forever.Two minutes... That she and her friends must train for the most dangerous three minutes of their lives: THE CALL.One minute... That any day now, without warning, they will each wake in a terrifying land, alone and hunted, with a one in ten chance of returning alive.And it is Nessa,more than anyone, who is going to need every ounce of the guts, wit, and sheer spirit she was born with, if she - and the nation - are to survive.
I don't read a lot of horror, I'm really sensitive to it and scare easily. I make exceptions for Stephen King books but even then I read them during the day, and if I'm particularly disturbed, I watch at least one episode of a sitcom to take my mind off it. When a copy of The Call showed up I thought I'd make an exception for it as I'd been seeing really positive reviews, and I'm glad I did.
The Call is set in a alternate Ireland, one with a declining population. Around twenty-five years ago the Irish made a truce with the Sidhe (fairies) and they were banished to another world, the Grey Land. Ever since that day no human has been able to leave or enter Ireland. Then The Call began. Children as young as ten would disappear, leaving their clothes behind. They would return 3 minutes and 4 seconds later, usually dead, their bodies often disfigured and badly injured. Some survive. The odds used to be 1 in 100 but these days they have improved to 1 in 10.
Fifteen year old Nessa Doherty has been training for the past four years. All over the country, survival training camps have been taking in kids and teenagers, making them athletes and fighters. Nessa lost her older brother before she'd been told about The Call and now she is determined to survive. Her parents were hesitant to let her go as Nessa has a disability: she had Polio as a child and as a result her legs are twisted. She can walk and run but is able to move faster when she can fashion a pair of crutches out of branches.
I was drawn to Nessa from the minute her story started. She's amazingly strong, dedicated, and intelligent. She speaks Gaelic, English, and Sidhe. She participates even when some of the instructors tell her not to bother, and she hates being pitied. She has wonderful, loyal friends in Megan and Anto, and while she loves them, she tries to always stay calm and a little distant.
This was such a clever take on Irish mythology and the way the story was told was excellent too. Nessa is the main narrator but each time The Call occurs we are transported to the Grey Land with that teen and shown their experience. These scenes are gory, gruesome, and creepy. The Grey Land is a dangerous place and the Sidhe love to hunt and torture the teenagers.
This was a thrilling story that only grew more intense as the plot progressed. As more teens are Called, the chance of Nessa being called increased. I had no idea how the story would end but it concluded perfectly. This could easily be a standalone, but I've heard talk of a sequel which I'm already keen to read.
The Call is a unique spin on Irish mythology, with an admirable main character, a suspenseful plot, and lashings of horror. If you're a fan of The Darkest Part of the Forest or the Book of Faerie series, this will be your cup of tea as well.
Thank you to Scholastic for my review copy.