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Review: The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

Marketed as “genre-changing blend of fantasy, horror, and folkore” (and no that typo is not mine, it’s from the blurb), The Call 100% grabbed my attention from the concept alone. In this version of semi-dystopian Ireland, the Sidhe are targeting teenagers; “calling” them to their world for three minutes before sending them back. Almost none return home alive. And protagonist Nessa may be disabled, but she is determined to train, determined to win, and to be one of the few to survive The Call.

I was simultaneously impressed and disappointed by this novel. What I loved was the concept; the idea of The Call felt very Hunger Games, very Maze Runner-ish. And it was exciting: who’s going to be called? When are they going to disappear from their world and appear stark naked in the Grey Land, the grotesque world of the Sidhe and have to run/fight/hide for their life?? And the world-building was incredible; such an imaginative world to place us in, inhabited by fantastic villains who genuinely frightened me a little bit! It was so refreshing to read a story about murderous, evil Fae, instead of the romanticised, sparkly Fae that dominate the YA genre these days. This was different, and brilliantly portrayed. I was hooked from page one, and the pacing kept me enraptured, kept me guessing and kept me scared.

But that didn’t hold out forever, unfortunately. I think my biggest issue was that the protagonist, Nessa, didn’t really feel like a protagonist. On paper, she sounds awesome. Badass disabled teen who slaps a guy in the face with her crutch – what’s not to love! But in the end, we barely even passed surface level with her. She felt about as developed as the rest of the characters around her, which isn’t saying much truth be told. She didn’t really have any influence over the story or even accomplish that much throughout – and there was no character arc, no progression of her personal story. I feel like the author ticked all the boxes but then sort of forgot to follow through, which is a real shame because it did end up affecting my enjoyment of the story. By the end, I just wanted her to participate in the story more and I was just waiting and waiting and … then I did some more waiting until finally … she sort of did a thing. And then that was it. Utterly anticlimactic and actually quite frustrating.

At the end of the day, I think this book was written for the mass-market: readers who want a fast pace, some high stakes and a little bit of a shock factor. And that, it does well. But for my tastes, it didn’t quite deliver, and it absolutely did not live up to the rave reviews on the blurb – “perfect for fans of Game of Thrones“!? Buzzfeed, what were you thinking? Nevertheless, it was enjoyable for what it was. It was thrilling and creative, and a little bit of a scare. I just think if the plot had been restructured a bit and more time was spent on the main characters, this one would be a real winner.


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