Last week I read The Call, a dark and gripping YA thriller set in a dystopian Ireland that has no contact with the rest of the world.
Years ago the people of Ireland banished the Aes Sídhe, the mythical ancient rulers of Ireland, to the Grey Land: a place where the air burns with the smell of bleach, where the grass slices the feet of those who walk on it, and where the red from the fiery lake is the only colour visible. Now the Sídhe (pronounced sheathe-uh) are taking revenge on Ireland by Calling every adolescent to fight.
On her birthday, Nessa finds out the terrible truth about her home in Ireland – the truth that will change her future forever.
That she and her friends must train for the most dangerous three minutes of their lives: THE CALL.
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 really enjoyed The Call and particularly loved the interweaving of a dystopian modern Ireland with Irish mythology and themes of folklore. In that sense, it’s completely different to anything I’ve ever read before, and far more interesting than just a dystopian thriller. Inspired by an image Peadar had of “people suddenly disappearing” he worked backwards to find out what was happening to them and the idea of being Called was born.
The obvious comparison to make is to The Hunger Games as both books are pacy and exciting stories of children fighting for their lives in awful circumstances, but the adventurous characters in The Call also reminded me of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I love The Call for many reasons, but especially because it’s introduced me to Nessa who is now one of my all-time favourite YA main characters. At only 14 she’s physically and emotionally strong despite her polio damaged legs and is a fantastic and interesting role model to read about. She’s also ballsy and determined whilst still being caring and gentle which is so lovely to read as it’s not a combination that’s often written in YA.
I also love the way that The Call is structured. Told in 3rd person narrative, each character had their own uninterrupted chapter describing their Calling, transporting me into the Grey Land with them. Chapters of the Callings are mostly short but hugely thrilling and always surprising. When reading about a mystical world there’s always more to find out and I really liked that each Calling presented a different experience. In parts The Call was quite an emotional read which is reflected by how Peadar felt when writing it: “At times it was [emotional]. I really liked some of the characters and wasn’t always happy to see them die. Nor did I always plan who was going to survive, so I was agonising over the visits to the Grey Land.”
The Call is a powerful and action-packed YA novel filled with the perfect balance of gruesome and gory descriptions and sensitive moments. I loved it and honestly couldn’t put it down! I’m so pleased that there’s going to be a sequel (though I’m sure not for a while) as I can’t wait to fall back into the magical world that Peadar has created.
Massive thanks to Peadar for answering my questions (and helping me pronounce Sídhe) and to Caro at David Fickling for giving me a copy of The Call and telling me to read it immediately.