Imagine, if you will, an Ireland that is cut off from the rest of the world, an Ireland where the Aes Sidhe, the early dwellers in the Emerald Isle who were banished by human settlers have decided it is time to come back. That's what you have in 'The Call' and it makes for a dark, chilling but ultimately rewarding read.
The general gist of the story is that Ireland is now isolated, ever since the day when planes fell from the sky and boats washed up on the shores, all more or less empty. No-one enters or leaves the island. The Aes Sidhe, a kind of Irish fairy folk, have decided it is time to end their exile and are trying to force their way ever closer from their land to this. These fairy folk are not what you might expect though - no tinkerbells here. These are a nasty, vicious race and they are coming for the nation's children.
It is because of this children are sent to special schools where they are taught survival skills so they will be ready when The Call comes.
What is The Call? At some point in each child's life they will be taken, without warning, and transferred to the land of the Aes Sidhe, an horrific, grey land where they have to survive The Hunt. They are gone from this world to that for 3 minutes and 4 seconds but are in the lands of the Aes Sidhe for 24 hours. If they survive The Hunt they are returned to this world, if they are caught they are tortured, disfigured, often (but not always) killed and then their dead bodies sent back. Very few who are Called and survive are without scars both mental and physical.
The schools set up to train the children are brutal places, designed to turn their pupils into warriors that may have a fighting chance. Into one of these schools comes our heroine Nessa. She is not like the other kids as she suffered from polio as a youngster which has left her with weak legs. Some think she should not be there but she is a battler and does what she can to keep up or improve her chances.
Most of the story revolves round the time at school, the interactions between pupils and staff, the training and just waiting to see who will be called next (seriously, they just disappear leaving only a bundle of clothes - they always turn up naked in the AS land - and the surprise never wears off).
Things start to get a bit more frantic though when a fairy hill is discovered on school land, The Sidhe are getting closer, The Calls are getting more regular, sometimes with several pupils going at one time and still Nessa waits till they decide it is time to take her.
I found Nessa to be a quite likeable lead character. Although she has her disability she makes the most of her situation and doesn't get all mopey about life. Quite a large part of the story questions (through some of her fellow pupils) whether she should actually be allowed to be at the school as it is training pupils to survive and it is quite obvious to them that with her disability she will not do so and so should have been 'terminated, at a younger age to allow more resources for those who might have a chance.
I will say that I really enjoyed this book. It is dark, it is unsettling, at times the tortures performed by the Aes Sidhe are downright horrific but above all it is a tale well told.
The Call is classed as YA fiction and would probably appeal to fans of such things as The Hunger Games and Maze Runners. Myself though I would recommend it to all ages (YA and upwards obviously)
Also, a quick nod (and my thanks) to David Fickling Books who published this and were kind enough to supply me with a copy when I asked. They are publishing some cracking fiction, check them out if you get the chance.