The Call by Peadar O'Guilin
David Fickling Books, 2015. ISBN 9781910989203
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Dystopian fiction, Future, Mythology, Survival. Crippled Nessa must make more effort than most if she is to survive the school and learn to beat The Call. It will happen as it does to all of them, only one in ten surviving the appalling treatment at the hands of the Sidhe, the ancient Irish, forced out of their own country by the people there now. Once taken, the children must undergo the most horrific of torture as they are hounded by the fairies, most until death. At school, they are trained to survive what is to come, partly by reading the stories of the few survivors, but also trained in a variety of skills pertinent to their testing. Nessa arrives at training school with just three books: a History of the Sidhe, a, compilation of last year's testimonies from those who were taken and a book of love poetry.
But at school she must also repulse the devious behaviour of a group of bullies, led by Conor. The story unfolds quickly pulling the reader into its murky depths. Conor's group sees themselves as champions of a new order where only the fittest survive, food denied to those weak and disabled in the hope that the stronger will be able to defeat the Sidhe and Conor targets Nessa as one of those to be eliminated.
Alternate chapters give accounts of the fantastic world of the Sidhe and the reader is swept along with the teens' efforts to survive the ordeal. The horror they endure at the hands of the Sidhe are mind boggling and these chapters are thankfully short.
But when a Sidhe is found in a rock near the school, the mound attracts Nessa and her friends, and here many are taken even fewer returning.
The Sidhe have made promises to some of the Irish in return for their betrayal and Conor promises much in return for being king as long as he can kill Nessa himself. The school burns down just as Nessa is called.
This wholly absorbing thriller has elements of a dystopian future, intertwined with the myths of Ancient Ireland. Now relegated to the Grey Lands, the Sidhe determines to wipe out the Irish so they can reclaim what they once had. But they have not taken Nessa into account. Themes of survival, heroism, betrayal and love packed between the covers of this wonderful fantasy thriller will satisfy all readers.