“The Call” by Peadar Ó Guilín

An ARC of this was thrust into my hand at YALC with the assurance that it was good but beyond that I knew nothing whatsoever about it. So I was delighted to find it was exactly the kind of creepy Irish-inspired story I like. Well-researched and delving into the medieval stuff that most books with fairies choose to overlook because it’s complicated, this book actually made me want to go back to working on my dissertation on Otherworld beings that I’ve been pretending doesn’t exist.

the callI loved the use of mythology here, because it was different to how I’ve seen it used elsewhere but it draws a great deal on the medieval texts I’ve studied, without feeling academic. I guess there are aspects I might enjoy more because I’ve studied them, but there was nothing that made me feel I needed my degree to understand or enjoy it, you know? The book also puts its own twist on the worldbuilding / magic / etc etc, allowing it to stay fresh and unexpected.

The premise of teenagers being sent to this Otherworld to fight for their lives IS to a certain extent the type of competitive THG-esque YA that I don’t tend to enjoy so much although I can’t pin down exactly why. If this had revolved entirely around the day they spend in the Otherworld, it would have quickly become a boring series of chases and fights. Instead, that ends up being the context for other events in the real world, which keep things interesting. So while the premise itself didn’t nab me, the mythology it used and the rest of the plot kept me interested.

As for the characters, this is definitely diverse. It’s got a disabled protagonist who is something of a badass but not in a way that negates her disability and how that affects her. There are also queer secondary characters, and while I would like to say they’re all fine and nothing bad happens to them… well, let’s just say with this book nobody is safe, and death is everywhere. It’s a lot more remarkable for a character to live in this than for them to die.

Oh, and some parts of this? Seriously gruesome. Lots of human body parts being used in ways they should not be used. Violence and torture and eek, don’t mess with fairies because they don’t play around.

To put it simply: this warmed the screwed up cockles of my morbid Celticist heart. It’s creepy and violent and mythological as all hell, and even the modern Ireland setting felt super authentic with the use of dialogue and style. This made the entire text feel grounded in its setting. But really, I have to give kudos to Peadar O’Guilin for making me vaguely interested in my dissertation again instead of dreading even glancing at it. THANKS MAN. Now I want to know what he (Peadar is a male name, right? Like Peter?) studied and how he got so deep into this medieval stuff. I need context for this book’s existence.

It loses a star because I wasn’t won over by the central premise (a few questions that make no sense, like why are they only taken for a day? Why not until they find a way out? This wasn’t explained) and also there was a bit of romance that did nothing whatsoever for me while not being particularly objectionable, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. Raced through the whole thing in no time.

For a book I was handed at random, this did a damn good job of hitting my very esoteric spots. And I’m pleased to know that there’s going to be a sequel — when I went back to the publisher’s stall on the Sunday of YALC, they told me the second one is already well in the works, although I don’t know whether it’s going to be a whole series or whether it’s just one more.

The Call would be a great gateway book for people looking to find themselves a few years later studying my degree, I have to say. I can easily imagine this being the kind of book I might have read when I was devouring everything Irish-related as an impressionable youth, but at least the fact that it wasn’t released until two years into my degree means that I got a lot of the references I wouldn’t have picked up on earlier!

Judgement: recommended to those who like creepy fairies, and to medievalists who like to have fun and feel clever at the same time.

Rating: ****

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