Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY TONY JONES
A welcome and brutal return to the Grey Lands in a YA masterpiecE
Today we review Peadar Ó Guilín’s “The Call 2: The Invasion” one of the finest YA novels we have read in ages, and in early March arrived in the bookshops. Ginger Nuts of Horror is particularly excited about this cracker, as it brutally concludes ‘The Grey Lands’ duology with the author mercurially avoiding the YA trap of adding sequel upon unnecessary sequel. Exactly twelve months ago we lamented how on earth ‘the powers that be’ who run the YA section of the Stoker Award could have neglected to nominate “The Call” for their prestigious award? Ginger Nuts called it right, since then we have given the first amazing novel steady online coverage, and the outstanding reviews have continued to pile up in the wider press.
If you have a child glued 24/7 to their mobile phone, a niece or nephew who cannot detach themselves from their tablet or you simply want to do a favour for an old friend with kids, then buy them “The Call”. This word of mouth smash continues to build up momentum and I know of many kids desperate to get their teeth into “The Call 2: The Invasion”. As was I. The wait for me is finally over, and the sequel does not disappoint, and may even top the original. Is that even possible? Oh yes, it is.
First up, don’t bother reading book 2 unless you’ve read “The Call”, they are intrinsically linked, so we’re going to recap the original before reviewing the mouth-watering sequel to end all YA duologies. Yes, it was that good. It was fantastic.
“The Call” a recap on book 1
You simply will not read a better fusion of fantasy, horror and mythology than in this amazing tale of the ancient fairy folk (the Sídhe) from Old Ireland. To take revenge for an ancient curse the fairy folk rip teenagers out of time for three minutes and four seconds (‘The Call’ of the title) transporting them to the land where they have been banished for eternity, known as ‘The Grey Lands’. Most of the teenagers are killed, tortured, or maimed in horrible ways and returned to Ireland disgustingly disfigured or worse. But our heroine (who has Polio and very weak legs) is simply too spunky and too tough to roll over and die, even though nobody else gives her a spit’s chance of surviving her own ‘call’. Fourteen-year-old Nessa is one of the finest characters created in recent YA fiction and you will be shouting from the roof tops for her when she is eventually forced to fight for her life.
Nobody can escape their personal date with ‘The Call’ which has been plaguing Ireland for 25 years and the author does a truly amazing job in creating a world where everything is geared towards helping children survive their deadly three minutes. Nobody can escape from Ireland because of a weird supernatural barrier which isolates Ireland from the rest of the world, creating almost a unique type of dystopia. Three minutes and four seconds is not long, but in the alternative ‘Grey World’ reality this is over 24 hours and plenty of torture time for the brutal fairy folk. ‘The Call’ had a terrific ending and did not necessarily need a sequel, but such was the interest in the original Peadar Ó Guilín’s takes us greedy readers back for more…
The Call 2: The Invasion
If you check out our accompanying interview Peadar states that he did not write the original novel with a sequel in mind, this is probably one of the major factors which contribute to a supremely fresh and original book two. On one level it flows seamlessly from novel to novel, but on a second there is stacks of new stuff going on and outstanding plot twists. Perhaps even better, the author vividly fills in many details of what has become of Ireland in the 25 years its teenagers have been routinely murdered by the Sídhe, a lot of what was only hinted at in the original book.
I’m going to try and avoid spoilers when possible and will be vague regarding the plot. Obviously, Nessa survived her ‘Call’ and has returned to Ireland, but she is changed somewhat. Because she is different she is presumed to be a traitor and sold her metaphorical soul to the Sídhe, as is a spy, or something even worse. There is a particularly nasty policeman/torturer who weeds out the so-called traitors, effectively everyone he interrogates! After all, the torturer thinks, how could a weak fourteen-year-old girl with Polio survive a ‘Call’? Nessa is ridiculed. The author really puts this terrific character through the wringer, but she is such a fighter, with astonishing spirit. Any teenager reader is going to be pulled 100% into Nessa’s world.
When Nessa gets throw in prison, we see the novel from several other points of view, including the love of Nessa’s life, who also survived his ‘Call’ but came back with a large deformed arm in book one. He has a cool role in the book, as Ireland and the Grey World edge closer together, more of their magic is infiltrating into our world and he joins a government extermination squad aimed at wiping the offending mutations out. This leads to many fantastic action, and very violent, sequences and the introduction of strong support characters.
Lots of questions are asked (and sometimes answered): can a person be Called twice? Why is there one 25-year-old woman who has never been Called? Why does Ireland still have one prison? Within the context of a very fast paced novel, the level of world-building is superb, for example along the way we find out handicapped children are offered poison instead of facing the painful death of ‘The Call’ or that Ireland now only has one radio station! It’s YA writing of the highest order.
Book two revisits the battle school which was the focus of book one and of course we all know Nessa is going to return to the Grey Lands sooner rather than later. I don’t want to say anymore about the plot of this truly brilliant book. Peadar Ó Guilín has created a fantasy horror novel for the ages, and I have a sneaky feeling this book is going to find a much bigger audience. I read books for children and teens all the time, I have a knack whereupon I can read them very quickly. I did not do that with “The Call 2: The Invasion” I savoured it and read it slowly like I would one of my favourite adult writers. I frequently come across adult horror fans who come across as very snobby about YA horror, if that’s you, then this is the book to chance your mind. Absolutely fantastic.
If you’re looking to buy a book for a child aged between eleven and fifteen buy them both “Call” books, you could give them no finer gift.
Make sure you check out our accompanying interview with the brilliant Peadar Ó Guilín.