Vanessa Doherty is a 14-year-old white lass who attends Boyle Survival College, one of many in Ireland that serve only to teach its youth how to survive the Call of the Sídhe.
The Sídhe are magical beings who were, in a distant past, banished from Ireland to live in a hellish netherworld. Seeking revenge, the Sídhe kidnap Ireland’s youth via the Call: the dreaded, unexpected moment when an adolescent simply disappears from Earth to land in a dreamlike, horrific underworld full of monsters—and the carnivorous Sídhe. From the age of 10, the Call is the moment every young person trains to survive, even grimly determined Nessa, who is permanently disabled from polio and can only navigate the training on crutches. One by one, students vanish, sometimes forever, into the Grey Land of the Sídhe. O’Guilin creates some suspenseful moments with his concept, but from its onset, the book recalls such predecessors as The Hunger Games or Divergent, in which young people undergo military-style training only to wind up in a bloody carnage, whether it’s among themselves or at the hands of their enemies. Where the book excels is in its worldbuilding, which imagines a realistically multicultural, modern Ireland unified by the Call and where the Irish language is no longer spoken and Sídhe is replacing English.
Though the plot is not terrifically original, readers will root for the book’s disabled protagonist to survive. (Fantasy. 12-16)