Monday, November 17, 2014

AWWC 2014: The Caller by Juliet Marillier

The Caller, the third book in the Shadowfell trilogy begins with the rebel headquarters coming to terms with the terrible loss they suffered at the end of Raven Flight. But the plan to rid Alban of its brutal king, Keldec and his vicious queen has to continue. The Caller of the title, Neryn, has so far met three Guardians, the trickster Master of the Shadows (although he has left her with more questions than answers), and trained in using her ability with the Hag of the Isles and the Lord of the North but still has no answer as to how they can protect the Good Folk from the effects of iron. She still needs to learn from the fourth Guardian, the White Lady and time is running out if she is also to find the elusive and unreliable Master of Shadows again. Even worse the king now has a weapon that could change the balance of power and undermine the rebels' alliance with the Good Folk, one that could threaten Neryn herself. While she has had to make some hard choices as she learns to master her ability as Caller, Neryn also finds she has to be flexible. Now everything has changed and, while it has been drummed into her that she must keep herself safe for the rebellion to have any chance of succeeding, she is forced to make risky decisions relying on her intuition. If she is wrong the consequences could be dire for all - rebels, Good Folk and especially for herself and the one she loves.

 Juliet Marillier is an gifted story teller with a wonderful way with words and I enjoyed The Caller very much. She evokes the world of Alban beautifully whether it is the physical setting of the isolated clearing where she finds the White Lady and the tiny winged creatures who live there, the tension filled court where no-one is safe from the cruelties of the king and his sadistic queen or the rebels' strongholds. I have read reviews of the previous two books in the trilogy where the reviewers thought the story moved a bit slowly but I disagree. I suspect this relates to the times when Neryn is training under the Guardians but, although I'm notorious for skimming over slow bits, I didn't feel that need here. Yes, it is not rushed but that made sense to me. Neryn has a lot to learn and some of her learning is slow and painful. If the author had skipped over this it would have lessened the importance of what she needed to know. For me, there's still sufficient tension here because Neryn has time constraints if the rebellion is to succeed and the Guardians often have very different world view.

One of the engaging features of the trilogy is the way Neryn has matured. In Shadowfell she is young and immature, weighed down by her terrible experiences and losses. By the time we reach The Caller she has fallen in love with Flint (and had to farewell him as he returns to the dangers of the court) and earned a position as one of the inner Council of the rebels. Now, too, she is mature enough to be prepared to make her own decisions if she believes them to be right (even when she knows they may well prove unpopular) and strong enough to stick to her convictions whatever the cost - and the costs are often high.

The terrible toll of his double life on Flint, the rebels' spy at court and Neryn's lover, is also convincing. Always in danger from the increasingly erratic king and under suspicion from the queen and her cronies, he is already in danger of unravelling at the beginning of the book and his struggles to survive in a hostile court are deeply believable. These struggles add to the sense of menace in the court, which I found almost uncomfortably palpable as the story draws to its climax.

All in all, The Caller is an absorbing and satisfying read with a well written and complex story and well drawn characters I came to care about. While it and the two earlier books are marketed as YA I found all three equally enjoyable as an adult reader. I do have reservations, however, about their suitability for readers as young as twelve, the starting age nominated by the US publisher.

The Caller was published by Pan Macmillan Australia in Australia and Knopf Books for young Readers in the USA.

The Caller (and Shadowfell and Raven Flight, the two earlier books in the trilogy) are available from various retailers and online booksellers both as hard copy and as e-books.

Juliet Marillier's website is here and she also has a Fan Page on Facebook.

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