Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.
Could you survive the Call?
This book is gruesome. And it is brilliant.
I didn’t know what to expect diving into this. The proof copy has been sat on my shelf for months, but when it arrived in the shop and I saw what it was about, I decided to finally pick it up. All I knew was that it was set in Ireland, there were evil fairies, and a death count almost as high as Game of Thrones.
Now, I am a sucker for anything fairy related. I have a weakness for fairytales, where happy endings are always there and magic is used for good, but I have an even bigger weakness- as in, I would kill for more books like it- for books where the fey want to lure you to your deaths and when hunting humans are their form of fun.
And in this book…. wow, the Sídhe take that that evil to another level, I swear.
So, many many years ago, Ireland managed to banish the Sídhe to the Grey Land, a place that sounds just as welcoming as its name. Then, 25 years before the book began, the Sídhe managed to curse all of Ireland in revenge, vowing to kill off Ireland’s humans. Any teenager between the age of 10 and 17 will get Called- they disappear from Ireland, leaving only their clothes, and appear in the Grey Land.
In the real world, they are gone for three minutes. But time is different, and in those three minutes, they are hunted for a whole day in the Grey Land. Only one in 10 teenagers last those three minutes and come back alive. And even then, most that come back are different.
Though this book has one main character- Nessa (Who I will talk about in a moment)- all the other characters have their own starring parts. None of them are pushed to the sidelines, even though you realise by about chapter three that 90% of these characters are probably not going to be around for the whole book. When each character is Called, you see them in the Grey Land. Each journey is different, each character seeing a different cruel side of the land they banished the Sídhe to.
It was cleverly done- you wanted each of them to survive. Each of them has had such a cruel time since they went to their survival schools, where they spend most of their time. Every day is terrifying, a wait to see who would end up dead- but life is harsh as well, trying to toughen them up. So when their time came, and you turned the page to see their names at the top, you are sat on the edge of your seat hoping they will survive the next few pages.
And then… Nessa.
Put your hands up if you’ve ever gotten annoyed at the lack of diversity in YA books. Mainly, this kind of action fantasy. Mainly, diversity in seeing disabled characters. And having a main character that is disabled.
So Nessa had polio as a child and as a result, her legs are twisted and weak. No one expected her to survive, but she was determined. She wanted to prove them all wrong. So at school, when they ran, she crafted herself crutches out of tree branches. She learns to fight. She watches all these people she grew up with disappear then appear again, hideous and mangled and more often dead than alive. And those same people give her pity. They do not punish her because of that pity, and she hates it.
More than anything, I loved that. I have a disability, and at school, it forced me to be behind many of my classmates. I used to be a big football player- until my doctor decided that football, along with many other sports- was too dangerous. There were many other things I couldn’t do, and if there was one thing I hated more than anything else, it was pity.
So to see a main character I could identify with, who I understood, who no one expected to get anywhere but then did, it made my day completely.
The only issue I had with this book is that you have to wait a long long time to see Nessa in the Grey Land, and the blurb of the book makes it sound like she is there a lot longer and a lot sooner than she is. However, the fact that you see all the others go into it makes up for it.
I just… This isn’t a book for the faint hearted. It is cruel and harsh and almost horrorish with some of the things that happen. But then, that is what they fey are meant to be, especially the ones in Ireland. But it is a fantastic read with some brilliant characters and imagination.