On her birthday, Nessa finds out the terrible truth about her homeland, 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:
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.
The book’s cover is adorned with skulls, and the intriguing tag line: ‘You have three minutes to save your life.’ It sounds dark and urgent, more thriller than fantasy…but is it a little misleading? Maybe a bit, but I wasn’t disappointed.
The faerie folk (or Sidhe), and the grey land in which they reside are suitable terrifying. O’Guilin has created an imaginative and horrifying world, full of terror and suspense. Nothing makes you read on with bated breath, quite like the concept of a hopeless cause in a fight for survival. You sympathise with every character unlucky enough to receive ‘the call,’ and hope they survive until the end. These sections are nicely interspersed throughout the novel, picking up the pace where it’s needed, and keeping the sense of urgency going from beginning to end.
Of the handful of teenagers we’re introduced to, all are constantly training for their survival, and have a one in ten chance of surviving the call. As if more reason were needed to sympathise with Nessa’s situation, we learn early on that she suffers from polio. It may well be a device used by O’Guilin to up the anti on a hopeless outcome for our protagonist, but I think its positive to have someone with a disability acknowledged in a fantasy as they often aren’t, least of all as the protagonist. Obviously Nessa’s disability had to have an impact on her character development, but it was managed in a positive way, with her being shown as strong willed, capable and determined in spite of it. Also, any negative associations of her disability didn’t force the plot and action into taking a backseat, which is often the case.
Although I felt the ending of The Call could have been strengthened a little, the plot didn’t offer a predictable resolution, which was nice. (There’s nothing worse than seeing how a plotline’s going to develop, and being proven right.) If I had any slight niggles with The Call, it would be the odd missing word here and there – I noticed maybe five or six throughout the whole novel, but worse than that…
the exclamation marks.
They were everywhere, and all the time. If a character’s shouting or surprised, that’s fine. Anything else? Not so much. The amount of exclamation marks here would be better suited to a children’s book, but in something for a YA/older readership, it comes across a little amateur-ish? Maybe that’s me being a bit harsh, but I felt it hindered the sense of urgency and danger O’Guilin was trying to create, and risked trivialising the character’s reactions.
But all-in-all The Call is a good original read, that should be read by anyone with an interest in the more malevolent fairies, and similar dark fantasy. If you’re a fan of the Tithe series by Holly Black, or The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson, this book should appeal to you.