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The Call Paperback – July 25, 2017
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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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.
I gave this book five out of five stars on Goodreads. There were so many things that I enjoyed with this book. Of course there were those few things that I did not enjoy, but in the end, the book did stick with me for a few days, and I really did enjoy the book overall.
Let me start off with our pros. I really enjoyed that it was a dark, suspenseful, and an intense read. The book was not easy to put down, and there were moments where I was debating on whether or not I should be responsible or not, because I wanted to read the book and not go to work or do things that I knew that I had to get done. Another thing that I enjoyed and loved was how the characters were relatable, even the characters that I hate. It made the events believable and real. It also helped you sympathize with the characters and what they have experience in the Gray Lands. O’Guilin wrote his characters in such a way that you would understand their thinking and reasoning behind such choices and experiences. I especially loved our main character. I enjoyed the fact that even though she is physically disabled, yet she is still strong and smart. In fact, I remember reading the first few pages and celebrating on such an amazing character. I am more in love with her on the fact that she hates it when people baby her because of her disability. I also enjoyed how O’Guilin used these characters to play with labels and teach us to not judge a book by its cover. He did not just pick on the whole weak being able to survive, but also played with other cliches such as the strong hero being the bad guy or the depressed sick teacher being the leader of darkness. Finally, I enjoyed the different themes within the book, such as friendships, love, kindness, growing up and what it means to be human, not just survival.
However, as much as I loved our book, there are two things that I did not like about the book. Sadly, this does take place at the end of the book and there will be spoilers (so if you want to skip this, you may). The first thing that I did not like was the amount of loose ends that happened at the end of the book. It just left so many unanswered questions that I felt as though we could have had an extra chapter to happily tie those up. Some of my questions are:
What happened to the traitors? Did they get their wish granted?
What was the crazy woman who wished to be in the Gray Lands? What was her exact wish? Did she make sure that she would not be hunted while she lived in the Gray Lands? Were there more wars between Ireland and the Fae? Was Ireland ever able to connect back to the real world?
The other thing that I did not like was how depressing the ending was. Here we are supposed to celebrate the human’s victory, but we end it with a sad reminder of death and loss friendships. Those were the main two problems that I had with the book.
In the end, I would love to recommend the book to everyone. However, I do fear that this book could trigger some people who have anxiety or suffer from PTSD. I can tell you that this book did cause some anxiety problems, and I was struggling with it, but the book was worth it. In the end, I can only speak for myself when it comes to my anxiety. But I do recommend this book to anyone who would like to read dark and intense books, especially if you like both the Hunger Games and the Game of Thrones. It is beautifully formulated and a lot of fun to read and experience.