The Invasion (2018), a finalist for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Young Adult Novel, is the sequel to Peadar O’Guilin’s The Call, which you’ll need to read first. (This review will spoil some of the plot of that first novel.) Once again I listened to the audiobook version (Scholastic Audio) which was nicely performed by Irish actor Amy Shiels.
At the end of The Call, our hero, Nessa, had been changed by the Sidhe. They made her fireproof. Because of her crippled legs, nobody expected Nessa to survive her Call, so now she’s under suspicion and the Irish government has put her in prison so they can figure out if she’s a traitor. In prison with her is a 25-year-old woman who has never been called and is therefore also under suspicion.
To get him out of the way, the government has sent Nessa’s boyfriend Anto, who also survived his Call with a deformity, to join a team of monster hunters. The human and Sidhe worlds have become so close, thanks to the real human traitors, that monstrous beings who used to be human, or who are animals malformed by their proximity to the Sidhe lands, are appearing all over Ireland as the Sidhe prepare to take over the government and install their hand-picked human king who will free the Sidhe from the Grey Lands. Anto, a pacifist, hates this work and questions its necessity since some of these “monsters” seem peaceful. He’s also very upset that Nessa has been branded a traitor.
Meanwhile, there are a few children and teachers left at Nessa and Anto’s school which was burned down at the end of the previous book. They are surrounded by monsters and hostile Sidhe and are just trying to stay alive. Few of them will make it.
The setting and scenery has changed significantly in The Invasion — it’s no longer a boarding school fantasy. O’Guilin continues to present us with delightfully horrible Sidhe creations — definitely the best part of the novel. The final scene, an epilogue really, was nicely done with some of the best characterization we’ve seen in this duology, but I suspect the ending will upset many readers.
I had the same issues with The Invasion that I had with The Call. Most notable is the shallow characterization which makes secondary characters’ Calls and deaths feel unimpactful (though there were a couple that made me slightly sad), makes the villains seem cartoonish (there’s a particularly ridiculous mad scientist in this story) and, in general, makes the entire story hard to believe in.
Plotwise, I couldn’t understand why Nessa, who has never been passive before, didn’t just thoroughly explain what happened to her (and why she’s still alive) to the authorities. Nessa is kept in jail for a long time and then severely punished for being a traitor when she was innocent all along. This served the plot, of course, but it really bugs me when strong characters suddenly become passive or don’t try just telling the truth. There were other things that didn’t ring true either, such as the premise that the Irish government is turning on survivors while its population is being decimated. Also, where are the parents of these kids? Why are young teenagers being sent to prison and put on monster-hunting squads? Why aren’t their parents and their lawyers fighting for these kids?
O’Guilin’s GREY LANDS duology has a great premise and some spectacular imagery (the monsters), but fails to deliver due to the weak characterization and some plot anomalies.
Parents of teen readers might like to know that some of the teens (around 15 years old) have sex in this novel. I think that’s inappropriate for a young teenage audience.