The Call- Peadar O’Guilin Review

‘Never has a generation of Irish children been so aware of its own folklore, especially as it pertains to the enemy.’

One thing that I’m so proud of being Irish is both our mythology and our wealth of talented writers. I grew up reading Irish myths, legends, poetry, horror and most importantly, YA written by Irish writers. This is a book I wish I had when I was 15.

The Call is set in a dystopic Ireland that is cut off from the rest of Britain and Europe. The Sidhe (pronounced SHEED) now rule Ireland and take teenagers ritually via an act known as ‘the call’. Our protagonist, Nessa, is training in a survival college and is determined to survive the call. But can Nessa last 3 minutes of the call? Or in such a dangerous future Ireland can she last until she is ‘called’?

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH HOLY FUCK. Sorry, did I say this out loud? This book has everything I love about Irish fiction and it has so many good things going for it. The presentation of Sidhe as horrifying and vengeful beings, the feeling of the setting actually being Ireland and the fantastic characters and representation kept me so engaged with everything in the story.

Starting with the world building what O’Guilin writes has the very distinct feel and taste of Ireland. The fact that it’s a near future Ireland overrun with malicious Sidhe and still feels like an Ireland I myself live in is the mark of a writer who really knows their setting. The majority of the novel is set in Boyle Survival College, located in Roscommon but there are mentions of other places like Mallow in Cork. This is a grim, brutal setting that leaves no room for forgiveness and doesn’t hold your hand. The Sidhe are beautiful as they are ruthless.

In terms of characters, we have a fantastic cast led by Nessa. Nessa is disabled as a result of complications from Polio she contracted as a child. This is something that is constantly referenced about Nessa and affects a lot of attitudes toward her and her chance for survival for when she is called. She is a strong in both body and will with an instinct to fight back and win against the enemy. She never once lets herself forget she is training for battle and judges every situation against the possibility of the call and her chance of making it. Other standout characters are Megan, Nessa’s main ally, and a couple of the teachers are also very well written such as Ms Breen and Nabil. All of which have fantastic character arcs I refuse to spoil here.

I really think that the plot was constructed very well. I never once felt like there was a calm moment or even that we were going to get a break, anytime I did allow myself a mild moment to relax I was very abruptly woken back up by a character being ‘called’ or something very violent happening. It’s fast paced and does not care about your feelings. There are moments that edge on body horror, showing the Sidhe for what they truly are vs the new image of fae being glamorous royalty only looking to mess up your day. They are the ruthless enemy, taking advantage of the time difference of our world and theirs (3 minutes in ours is an entire day in their world) to torture those they catch and even those who do survive don’t come back the same is how I’ll put it.

It’s such a relief novels like this exist to not only teach others about the real brutality behind Irish myths and legends but also to remind the younger generations of their own culture. I grew up before technology where stories of the Banshee and fairy roads were genuinely scary. The Sidhe were menacing and lived in the back of my mind. Now at least this is accessible through the likes of Peadar O’Guillin even better through the lens of YA fiction.

I highly recommend this to people who want to learn more about Irish culture, anyone who like I grew up on this stuff. Just a mild warning for younger readers with the incidents of body horror, violence and gore.

★★★★★/5

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents- Terry Pratchett

“To be a leader you have to learn to shout! But after you’ve learned to shout, you have to learn not to!”

Welcome back to the Disc! My apologies for the lack of posts. I had World Con last week, went back to work and now I’m out sick for five days with no voice. This is my next book in the Discworld Project. I am still intending to read the series in publication order but this one was a bit too special to delay and is one of the few YA novels within the world .

Here we meet the Amazing Maurice. Maurice is a cat who has gained sentience and employs a group of fellow sentient rats. Along with the cat and the rats we have Keith, an orphan who plays the flute. Maurice, the rats and Keith go from town to town running the same scheme: rats arrive, boy plays flute, boy and cat chase away rats, boy collects money from grateful villagers. Then comes their arrival in the village of Bad Blintz. Something is wrong, and now Maurice’s scheme needs to become a plan. A plan for survival.

This was a joy to read and a nice change to the Discworld continuity that I am currently following. This was the first of the Discworld books to be written for younger readers and I was concerned that it may water down the usual strength of the other books but thankfully I was proven wrong. This is a remarkable story and is just as enjoyable being read by an adult. (Yes. Sadly I count as an adult)

The world building isn’t something that we need to discuss but as always, it’s nice to see another new part of the Disc. Bad Blintz reads like an old English village that has yet to discover the world outside it’s confines. Although it is a very typical fantasy trope/location, Pratchett still makes it work as a point of satire.

The characters are the true standout of this book. Maurice, a ginger street cat, is our main POV but we do move between Keith, some of the rats and an unnamed narrator we come to discover later on. Maurice is definitely my favourite, filled with all the sassiness of any cat but despite his crookster persona he has genuine moments of caring and nature throughout the story. One of my favourite aspects of the rats is how they have named themselves (Dangerous Beans, Nourishing and Sardines to name a few) and how they are adjusting to their new found conciousness. It makes for some brilliant dialogue, which is one of Pratchett’s true talents. We also meet the village girl of Malicia. Malicia loves fairy tales, wears black and never shuts up. I think I may have been Malicia at a younger age.

The plot flows very freely aswell, making for a quick and fluid story. At the stage of this novel being published there were 27 in the Discworld so I feel that compared to some of the other ones I have read so far that you can see how Pratchett has developed. Not only Pratchett but the whole of the Discworld series at this point of publication, had developed to a fantasy favourite with a dedicated fanbase.

This is a good fun read that is easy to get through and is a perfect stepping stone (as a lot of the novels are) on to the Discworld but even if you just want to read this as a standalone work you can. However, I have a new found phobia over this book, and a comment from Pratchett in the acknowledgements. That’s all I can say.

★★★★/5

Welcome to Hedwig’s World

Good Evening! My name is Kayleigh, but you can call me Hedwig. Welcome to my blog!

I’m delighted to finally have a blog up and running at last. I’ve wanted to set one up for a while now and it is here at last. First of all, I love books. I adore reading and living between the pages of another world is my ultimate love. That is why I have created this blog primarily, to write reviews, share my opinions and just meet more bookish folk who understand my love of reading.

I’m also a big fan of comics, conventions, Dungeons&Dragons and horror movies. I’m a massive nerd basically. I aim to discuss these things on this blog too if they interest you! In terms of book genre, I mostly read fantasy, sci fi and horror but read a lot of graphic novels/comics, non fiction and literary fiction too. Variety is important to me and so is learning new things.

I’m an artist also, but I’m currently working in administration to take a break from 4+ years in art education/work. Feel free to find me on Twitter and Instagram if you want to talk more but overall, thank you for reading and I can’t wait to get started here! (Yes that is Spike. I am am big Buffy nerd).

Stay spooky!