Grey Land #2: The Invasion – Peadar Ó Guilín

The Invasion is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book category.

In The Call we were introduced to Nessa and Anto. Despite incredible odds they both survived their Calls, so this should be the story of their happily ever after, right? Yeah, maybe not. Your first clue is the book’s title, The Invasion. Any happiness is fleeting and we’re at war here, people! There may not even be an ever after!

Three minutes and four seconds. That’s how long the Called are missing. Then they come back, living or dead; twisted into hideous shapes or bewildered and whole. But return they always do. Or at least they used to.

This sequel introduces plenty of new characters but also continues the story of some we’ve already spent time with. I was looking forward to the continuation of Nessa and Anto’s story. I was surprised that Aoife’s role increased as she didn’t make a huge impression on me in the first book. I was eager to see what the consequences of Melanie’s actions in the first book would be.

We made the Sídhe into monsters, now they make monsters of us.

I found I either loved or hated the women in this book. I loved Karim and Taaft, who commanded respect with their strength, leadership, determination and bravery. Although they were badasses in battle, they weren’t one dimensional; they cared about the people they fought alongside and had stories that extended beyond their job descriptions.

The professor intrigued me and I wished for more time to get to know them. They did not get anywhere near the page time that I had hoped they would. I wanted more time with Melanie as well (although the resolution of her story satisfied me) and I wanted to find out what happened after we saw Angela last. I had high hopes for Liz Sweeney but her contribution to the story fell flat for me.

When characters refer to themselves in the third person I find it infuriating so Annie quickly became the character I most wanted the Sídhe to play with – “But Annie has seen it all, so she has.”, “Annie feels”, “Annie doesn’t like”. Ugh! She’s right here, Sídhe! Come and get her!

Most of the people who died in this book were simply names to me. I didn’t know much, if anything, about them so their deaths didn’t even make me pause. The one death that I thought should have had an emotional impact didn’t.

Although I didn’t come away with any substantial emotional connections I loved being able to revisit the Grey Land and enjoyed the introduction of some of its landscape and creatures I wasn’t previously aware of. Like piranha bats! And sniffers!

I had no idea what was going to happen next during The Call, other than the certainty that most of the characters I met would not survive, of course. Unfortunately I found The Invasion quite predictable. This may be because I already knew some of the rules at play in the Many-Coloured and Grey Lands but I found myself highlighting key sentences, knowing they were important before the characters did and more often than not I knew what those sentences foretold. I even figured out who the Big Bad was as soon as I met them and found them underwhelming.

Despite this I was satisfied by the ending, with key characters behaving how I hoped they would when faced with horrors. I’m caught between wishing The Call had been a standalone and glad I read the sequel.

Although this book does provide enough answers for the story to be “Called” complete, other potential worlds were mentioned briefly but not explored. I love the Sídhe so much and would joyfully read on if their world ever collided with another.

Once Upon a Nitpick or Two: The first time something was likened to a cartoon or a cartoon character I enjoyed the visual. I was over it by the fourth time it happened. There were also more typos remaining in the Kindle version I purchased than I would have liked.

Content warnings include ableism, death by suicide, suicidal ideation, physical assaults and torture, and mental health, specifically the impacts of trauma.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After so much danger, Nessa and Anto can finally dream of a happy life. But the terrible attack on their school has created a witch-hunt for traitors – boys and girls who survived the Call only by making deals with the enemy. To the authorities, Nessa’s guilt is obvious. Her punishment is to be sent back to the nightmare of the Grey Land for the rest of her life. The Sídhe are waiting, and they have a very special fate planned for her.

Meanwhile, with the help of a real traitor, the enemy come pouring into Ireland at the head of a terrifying army. Every human they capture becomes a weapon. Anto and the last students of his old school must find a way to strike a blow at the invaders before they lose their lives, or even worse, their minds. But with every moment Anto is confronted with more evidence of Nessa’s guilt.

For Nessa, the thought of seeing Anto again is the only thing keeping her alive. But if she escapes, and if she can find him, surely he is duty-bound to kill her …

Grey Land #1: The Call – Peadar Ó Guilín

What was I thinking?! I discovered this book in 2016 and gave my initial read ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. What?? This is clearly a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book! I’d borrow more stars right now if that was possible!

Put to the ultimate test for your survival, you will find out exactly what you’re made of when you’re Called; literally if you’re not quick enough, wily enough or lucky enough. At some point during your adolescence you will be Called to the Grey Land. Your body will return, dead, alive or somewhere in between, exactly three minutes and four seconds after you disappear, but in the Grey Land you must survive an entire day of horror beyond measure.

Cowards have the opportunity to become heroes. Those who are certain they will survive aren’t so sure once they breathe in the acrid air and encounter the first of the Sídhe (fairy, in English) who want to play with them, agonisingly twisting and reshaping their body beyond recognition.

‘The Nation must survive! The future is ours!’

With only one out of ten people surviving the Call it’s wise to not get too emotionally attached to anyone. However it’s impossible not to have a few of the teens penetrate your protective emotional armour. My favourite character doesn’t survive their Call but their time in the Grey Land proved to me exactly why I loved them from the moment I met them.

While at first glance it seems clear who the monsters of this story are, the longer I read the more I questioned my initial judgement. It appears there are monsters on both sides of this war and I felt some surprising empathy for the Sídhe as I learned more of their history.

This is the spirit of the Call itself. Deadly and inevitable and imminent.

This is one seriously messed up fairy (Sídhe) tale and I love it! It’s a brutal and at times quite gory story, with characters I cheered on to survive (or otherwise), and locations that came to life in my mind. This is definitely not a world I would ever want to visit because there’s no way I’d survive the Call, but I was fully immersed the entire time in this imaginative, well thought out world.

I have the Hugo Awards to thank for finally getting my act together to reread it. The Invasion is a finalist in the 2019 Hugo Awards category, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, so I had the perfect excuse to revisit the awesome horror of the Grey Land in The Call.

Books within the book: I wish I could get my hands on the hundred page History of the Sídhe book mentioned in The Call, as well as all the volumes of the Testimonies.

Content warnings include ableism, sexual assault, bullying, physical assaults and torture, mental health, and brief mentions of family violence and suicidal ideation.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?