My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. The Call has begun.
The Sidhe are close. They’re the most beautiful and terrible people you’ve ever seen. And they’ve seen you.
Nessa will be Called soon. No one thinks she has any chance to survive. But she’s determined to prove them wrong.
Could you survive the Call?”
If there was one word I could use to describe this book, it would have to be awkward. Nearly everything about this book felt a little awkward to me: the writing style, the dialogue, the plot development, and above all else, the characters.
The synopsis of this book promised us a dystopian version of Ireland that was bereft of young adults and teenagers due to the Call, a phenomena that transports teenagers to the Grey Land, the land in which the Sídhe reside, for a total of 3 minutes (and four seconds), which is a day in the Grey Land. For those of you unfamiliar with Irish folklore, the Sídhe are the Fair Folk, the Good People, the Fae. And these creatures hunt down Irish teens to torture, maim, and kill them as a form of revenge against the Irish peoples who long ago banished the Fae from their homeland of Éire (Ireland) to an adjacent land devoid of color and beauty.
To resist this slow form of extinction, the Irish have built schools to teach teenagers how to survive the Call. Unfortunately, not many students survive despite their efforts. Enter Nessa (and everybody else who the author mentions in this short book).
Nessa has polio and her condition has weakened her legs, making her an easy target for the Sidhe. However, Nessa trains hard and makes it known that she is no easy target. To protect herself from bullies and from the pain of loss, Nessa behaves like an ice queen and has only two good friends, one of which she is in love with.
Cue the awkwardness.
The interactions and supposed love story between Nessa and Anto was so thin and bare that there was no reason for me to believe there was any chemistry between them. And the friendship between Nessa and Megan was so clunky, I could hardly build up any feelings for the two of them, both individually and as a pair.
I cared for no one in this book because the author did not do so well to introduce us to his characters. More than a few were side characters that died within a chapter or two of being introduced. As for Nessa, her qualities were near nonexistent and the only thing we learn from her is that she loves poetry, Anto, and life. She wants to live. And we get that for the majority of the book. But not much else.
Nessa isn’t Called until the very end and so we’re left with chapters that detail other random students who have been Called and maimed in the worst of ways. These moments are interesting, but they still don’t really contribute much else to the story.
The writing is mediocre at best and the dialogue among the characters is something to be desired. I’m not entirely sure how to explain this, so I’ll do the best that I can. It almost seemed as if each character were speaking their own script without listening to their conversation partner. There’s a disconnect and layered feeling to the text that makes it seem as if the characters are speaking to a shadow behind another character. It doesn’t match up and it doesn’t make sense at times. And there were several attempts at humor that almost always fell flat for me.
This book is dark, and creepy, and gruesome, just as I was promised it would be. But the story was far too underdeveloped, the characters had few desirable qualities that would endear them to me, and the pacing of the entire book was off-kilter nearly 80% of the time. The Sídhe were side characters even though they were the main enemies and the words used to describe them were recycled throughout: “pale” and “tall” and “beautiful” with “big eyes.” That’s about it. I didn’t know what anyone looked like really, and so the author should be thankful most readers have rampant imaginations, otherwise all his characters would have blank features and dark anomalous shapes.
As you can see, I had a lot of problems with this book. Despite it all, I enjoyed the grittiness factor of it, which was entirely of the Irish sort. Old (and new) Irish texts can be quite gruesome and explicit, and so I thought this book fit well with Irish literature. Unfortunately, I would have enjoyed many more elements of this book if they were given more time and care. It’s a quick read and good for dark nights, but I’m not sure it’s enough to garner a re-read.