Review Blog

Nov 13 2016

The Call by Peadar O'Guilin

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David Fickling Books, 2016. ISBN 9781910989203
(Age: 16+) Centuries after humans drove the Sidhe (fairies) from Ireland into the dark world of the Grey Land, society struggles to survive as the supernatural creatures inflict a horrifying revenge. Every child is suddenly seized without warning at some stage of their adolescence. They are transported in a single moment to the hideously terrifying world of the Sidhe where they are hunted and most often captured and tortured to death for the amusement of their tormentors.
All are returned to Ireland, however approximately nine out of ten are killed and the survivors bear terrible wounds and disfigurements from their ordeal. The corpses are mutilated and deformed by fairies as an example to those who have not yet been 'called', as a warning of the unspeakable pain and suffering which they will be subjected to when caught.
Unable to escape their land, the dwindling Irish population faces societal collapse and survival dominates every aspect of life. From the age of ten, children attend special colleges where they are subjected to gruelling physical exercise to develop strength and stamina whilst engaging in high level self defence techniques. Their entire education centres upon being as prepared as they possibly can when they are called, finding themselves naked and alone in an alien world where they will be sadistically hunted.
Having survived polio, central character Nessa has a walking disability. She knows that surviving her call is made monumentally difficult by being unable to flee as swiftly as most. Despite this, she feels that she must survive and devotes her life to accomplishing every aspect of her training as well as she can. If the prospect of indescribable violence and pain in a nether world is not enough, Nessa and her peers suffer vicious bullying from fellow students who seek to dominate in a real world where normal teen relationships and hormones remain. With students trained to survive by killing before being killed, fights in the survival college can maim and to be called when injured invites almost certain death. Strong female characters exist in this story and they are shown to be self-reliant and capable of defending themselves. Threats and acts of violence perpetrated by male characters upon females makes for uncomfortable reading however.
The linear progression of Nessa's experience is interspersed with chapters describing what happens to other students from the school's various year levels when they are called to the Grey Land.
The author describes this tale as grim which is a significant understatement. Some scenes are nightmarish but what disturbed me most was the degrading, unending pain and misery endured by humans who were enslaved and grossly disfigured to provide service to captors. Descriptions of clothing made from human parts was sickening. Whilst many teenagers enjoy horror themes, aspects of this novel could be described as extreme.
Suggested minimum 16 years.
Rob Welsh

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