The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

When David Fickling Books are publishing a new title, it’s something to take note of. The publishers have released the last two year’s best books for me (The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, and Unbecoming by Jenny Downham), so I already know that their calibre of YA is pretty high. So when The Call came to me, I was very curious indeed – A YA horror/thriller with deep roots in traditional Irish folklore? I’m in…

The Call

Set in a desolate Dystopian Ireland in a world where all teenagers must survive The Call – 3 minutes and 4 seconds in which they will be transported to the hellish Grey Lands to fight for their lives against the twisted and beautiful Sidhe (pronounced “Shee”) people – the malevolent fairies of legend who where banished there thousands of years ago by the descendants of the modern day people of the Emerald Isle. Time moves differently in the Grey Lands, and 3 minutes becomes 24 hours there, whilst the Sidhe hunt their prey – and if you’re lucky you’ll be transported back at the end unharmed. If you’re lucky they might only kill you. But the Sidhe like to play with their victims if they catch them early enough… Twisting human flesh into grotesque art. If you’re unlucky, what they send back might not resemble anything human at all. Nessa, the story’s main character, is at a training college that educates and prepares the nation’s teenagers for The Call. No-one expects her to survive – there’s no way, not after polio ravaged her legs as a child. She can barely run without the aid of crutches, and the Sidhe won’t let her take anything like that with her. Her death is a certainty, and everyone knows it. Except Nessa – Nessa is going to prove them all wrong…

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Despite such twisted writing, he seems so nice!

Talk about PACING. I’m a pretty slow reader (it bugs me a lot), but I flew through The Call in about a week, which is not bad going for me. Peadar expertly pulls the story along by using short, punchy chapters, each one ending on just the right hook to pull you into the next one. It’s these choppy chapters, filled with action and mystery which keep the book pounding along through its story, combined with the way he jumps from Nessa’s plot to the short, often violent lives of those Called to the Grey Lands. It’s these little snapshots of the brutality of the Sidhe realm that up the tension for the characters left behind, and as they are Called one by one, the pressure becomes monumental on those who remain. Peadar also uses a Clive Barker-esque feel of horror in his writing, by twisting the familiar to make it unsettling or outright upsetting (in the way all good horror should be), and the punishments and the games of the Sidhe are wonderfully creative and horrifically dark and cruel. The Grey Lands themselves are a suffocating alternate world which the author describes in scant, disturbing slices, but it’s the bleak and ruined Ireland that really feels the darker setting of the two. Only 1 in 10 teenagers survive The Call, making the country a crumbling ruin of what it once was. The adults are strained, hopeless and desperate, and the teenagers range for confident and arrogant to nihilistic, and the clashing this creates makes the characters really stand out – none more so than Nessa. A physically disabled protagonist in a YA novel is virtually unheard of, and one in a fast paced survival horror is even rarer. Nessa might even be the first, to my knowledge. Her resolve and quiet determination are at odds with the usual “strong female character” trope that we see so much in the genre. She has fears and hopes, loves and hates. She isn’t an unstoppable badass – she’s a girl who everyone else has written off already, and the bitterness of a life being told she’s as good as dead quietly weaves its way through her actions.

The Call uses mythology and modern horror ideas to create something really unique and absorbing. As someone with no knowledge of the Sidhe and Irish folklore, I’d love the backstory to be investigated a little more and fleshed out – perhaps in a sequel…? I’ll be the first in line…

Thanks For Reading,

D

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The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley Doyle

I mentioned this in my Things to Look Out For in 2015 post… This book absolutely burned through me. It ate up my insides and lived in my heart until it was all I could think about. I’m still thinking about it, days later. Seriously beautiful fiction…

The jacket fits perfectly.

The jacket fits perfectly.

The Accident Season arrives every October. Cara and her entire family suddenly become accident prone for 31 days – cuts and bruises, broken bones… Even deaths. Cara’s best friend Bea reads her tarot cards and tells her that this year might be the worst in years. But Cara’s world is confused, crazed and swirling – A girl has gone missing, a classmate called Elsie, who inexplicably shows up in every single one of Cara’s photographs, and Cara is determined that she holds the key to the Accident Season. Her older sister Alice doesn’t even believe in the whole thing, despite her own injuries. And her ex-step-brother Sam (still a part of the Accident Season despite his lack of blood relation) is an enigma that she cannot fathom.

I think The Accident Season might be the best book I’ve read this year so far? Certainly the best debut so far this year. All of Moïra’s characters are wonderfully melancholy and dramatic, full of messy flaws and simmering with youthful angst. Cara is a whirlwind of chaos and confusion, determined to understand the world around her, even when it seems to make no sense. Her confused feelings towards the accidents, to her own memories and her family are beautifully dreamlike and frustratingly just out of reach. Bea in particular is one of my favourite characters in the book, her tongue in cheek wildchild nature is intoxicating, and her powerful, fiery heart is brilliant – her passion for her friends is tenacious and unquenchable. Alice’s dark, angry energy permeates the novel as well, adding a storm-like quality to everything that goes on and creates a sense of desperate secrecy. Sam is angry too, but his is a quiet, simmering rage that counterbalances Alice’s destructive perfectly. Their mother is wonderfully melancholy as well, a constant fear for her children and a permanent sadness wraps her up in a distracted and tragic aura.

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What really made me fall so madly, insatiably in love with The Accident Season was the style with which Moïra writes though. This book is beyond lyrical, it’s perfectly poetic, and every word, every slight metaphor has a hundred meanings that radiate throughout the book, coming together stunningly at the end, as the secrets that each character finally spill out into the atmosphere. The way she weaves a dreamy, partly real, partly theatrical narrative is absolutely mind blowing, twisting the reader’s perceptions about the very fabric of reality until we’re just as confused as the characters, but even more invested in their struggle. The wildness to the characters, their reckless and driven desire to live like there truly is no tomorrow is hypnotic and made my pulse race, gluing me to each tragic, frantic page.

I don’t think I’ve read a book that deals with such complex, dark and powerful themes as this in a very long time. The secrets that it holds are painful and difficult, and the way it touches upon such delicate ideas is perfect, powerful and filled with respect. It shows the reader that lies and secrets are our own undoing, and it does so with grace and beautiful prose. If you enjoyed We Were Liars, this is a whole step up in terms of twisting deception and dramatic, extravagant writing style. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece of dark, borderline fantasy and I recommend everyone picks it up as soon as it’s on sale. It’s going to remembered forever, I hope.

Thanks for reading,

D

You can pre-order the book Here.