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Thousands of years ago, humans banished the Sidhe fairy race to another dimension. The beautiful, terrible Sidhe have stewed in a land of horrors ever since, plotting their revenge...and now their day has come.
Fourteen-year-old Nessa lives in a world where every teen will be "Called". It could come in the middle of the day, it could come deep in the night. But one instant she will be here, and the next she will wake up naked and alone in the Sidhe land. She will be spotted, hunted down, and brutally murdered. And she will be sent back in pieces by the Sidhe to the human world...unless she joins the rare few who survive for 24 hours and escape unscathed.
Nessa trains with her friends at an academy designed to maximize her chances at survival. But as the days tick by and her classmates go one by one, the threat of her Call lurks ever closer...and with it the threat of an even more insidious danger closer to home.
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By Amy on 09-03-16
Haunting, Harrowing, and Fantastic
If you're within the sound of my voice -- or, more appropriately, the sight of my written words -- please take this as a given: I want to sit you down, shove this book into your hands (or the audiobook into your ears), and insist that you enjoy it. Now.
It may be easy to overlook what a stunning achievement this novel represents, but that's because Peadar Ó Guilín makes it seem so effortless as he draws the reader on from one page-turning moment to the next. It is a stunning achievement nonetheless, with its meditation on how a people's history returns to them for rectification; its all-too-relevant consideration of mass culture during its descent ("I don't care if I don't make it... I mean it. The country is done for, and we all know that's the truth. Aiofe is right. Even the survivors have nothing to look forward to except decline..."); its seamless world-building, folding real and mythic Irish history, language, and poetry into its storytelling ("Never has a generation of Irish children been so aware of its own folklore"); its related and stunning sense of place; and its utterly compelling depiction of a three-dimensional, dynamic, and partially (and permanently) disabled heroine.
I don't sell young adult dystopias short, but I also feel confident in saying that The Call transcends the labels others would place on it. Both adult and YA readers of science fiction, fantasy will find much to appreciate here.
The premise is this: Ireland is a nation cut off from the rest of the world, plagued by terrible retribution. Thousands of years after the Sidhe, the people of the mounds, the followers of the Goddess Danu, were displaced by the Irish and banished to a colorless netherworld, they have returned with a vengeance to destroy those who removed them. Every Irish child will face the three minutes of the Call during his or her adolescence. Few return alive, and most of those are twisted beyond recognition. Nessa, whose polio-twisted legs all but promise she will not outrun the Sidhe when her time comes, stubbornly prepares to meet the Call and win her survival.
What I appreciate most -- and that's saying a lot, considering how much I love about this novel -- is the nuanced, insightful way The Call handles the question of, and challenges readers about, conquest and conflict. What are the causes and costs of war? How we determine who is responsible? What does it mean to be guilty/innocent or winning/losing?
Take for instance this passage:
"'Listen,' he says, 'we don't need the Sidhe to teach us evil. We were the ones who put them in the Grey Land, remember? And not just for a day or however long it is the Call lasts. We Irish... we trapped an entire race of people in hell for all eternity just so we could take their homes for ourselves. You can read it in The Book of Conquests. I mean, look at it from their point of view.... There they were, a few thousand years ago, living in a place they loved so much that they called it the Many-Colored Land. Then this other group arrives, pretty much the same as them, speaking the same language even, except this new lot -- our ancestors -- were the first in the world to have iron weapons. They thought it gave them the right to take everything! Everything!'"
And this one:
"'How long must I wait?' she asks the mirror in Sidhe.
"As a survivor, she doesn't need to speak the language anymore. But many like her are more comfortable in it than English, and since they have no choice but to marry each other, the primary schools of the country are filling with tiny tots whose innocent mouths spout the long-dead language of their distant ancestors, which also happen to be the living, never-changing tongue of the enemy. Some day, she thinks, we will be them, a greater victory for the Sidhe than if they kill us all."
Like all great speculative fiction, The Call provides us metaphors by which we can question our condition and examine current issues in our world today. It also provides a window into history, art, and our common humanity. And it does so while providing a chilling and fascinating ride.
Amy Shiels' beautiful narration helps ground the text in its Irish context and bring the characters to life.
27 of 29 people found this review helpful
By Jeffrey veals on 05-25-17
Brilliant Beyond Anything I've Read This Year
What made the experience of listening to The Call the most enjoyable?
Amy Shiels... she may be British, Irish, Scottish, or even American. I haven't researched this at all; however, Ms. Shiels has talent beyond anything I've EVER heard. It wasn't just the accents, where she could go from American to British to Irish... I felt the pain, the fear, the longing, and everything that Peadar O'Guilin beautifully wrote. I was entranced from very early on and I listened to that last 2 1/2 hours in one sitting into the early hours of the morning. This is something I haven't done since I was a child and was first reading the Harry Potter series.
What did you like best about this story?
This story has been described by some as 'The Hunger Games with Faeries.' This description makes me so furious that I can hardly stand to even think about it for very long. The best part about this was how, although this is a young adult novel, it is written as though it were meant for the literary fiction genre. Mr. O'Guilin is a master with words based on this book alone and I can't even begin to describe my hatred of the comparison to 'The Hunger Games.' Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games trilogy) wrote an amazing story and the movies took it to a new level; however, Ms. Collins' writing in the trilogy is so basic and simplistic that to compare it to 'The Call' is such a disservice that I won't stand for it. Yes, there are faeries, but they are nothing like you're imagining. Read the book and find out, because you will discover a hidden gem so brilliant that I, a 30 year old man, spent precious time that I needed to sleep, listening to this book.
What does Amy Shiels bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I will say that I would've felt the same way about the book if I had just read it, but Ms. Shiels is just a major talent. If she doesn't receive some sort of award for audiobooks or get more jobs even, I will be furious. She is an incredible talent and the PERFECT narrator for 'The Call.'
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I do not listen to books in one sitting. Even if a book was three hours long, I couldn't take the time to do it all in one; however, like I said above, I spent over two hours listening to the end of this book, because I could not handle the idea of not knowing what happens to Nessa and her survival college. It was one of the most intense endings I've ever heard in a young adult novel...Let me change that. It was one of the most intense endings I've ever read in ANY novel.
Any additional comments?
I've become aware that 'The Call' will be part of a duology, even though I could see this book being a standalone. I am VERY curious to see what Mr. O'Guilin does with the story and what will happen in the next book. I'm so curious that I might not sleep tonight!
As far as this novel goes, please DO NOT listen to those who've made simplistic, stupid remarks about how it's about faeries or it's about children taken to horrible places (basically, they are saying it's a copy of 'The Hunger Games'). I reserve my 5 star ratings for books that deserve it. I can tell you right now what they are: Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World,' Justin Cronin's 'The Passage' and 'The Twelve,' Caleb Roehrig's 'Last Seen Leaving' and now I've added 'The Call.' I'm a huge reader and this book deserves to be read by many. It is fantasy, but think about Harry Potter... Fantasy, but J.K. Rowling did such an amazing job with the writing that it became something adults could read. I probably have hyped this book up too much, but I don't really care. This is one of the best-written contemporary books I've ever read in my life.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful