Fiction

Reflection: The Invasion (The Grey Land Book 2) by Peadar O’Guilin

Irish mythology has fascinated me since I was a little girl. The stories of sliding between parallel worlds, of the human and the Sidhe, of Tir Na n’Og, seemed both familiar and strange. I felt like I missed something by not being able to speak Gaeilge (or Cymric for that matter). My family name is Irish, but my family moved to Australia five or six generations ago, I think we traced it to about the time of the famine. I am one of the invaders.

The Invasion is a sequel to The Call, the books are based on the premise that Ireland (the whole island, not just Eire) has been shrouded by mist for a generation. During this time children between the ages of 12 and 19 are “called” to the “greylands” for three minutes and four seconds. The Greylands are the world that the Sidhe escaped to after humans invaded Ireland. Time, of course, passes differently in the Greylands, and that three minutes and four seconds becomes 24 hours that the children have to survive. The Sidhe are out for revenge against the thieves who stole their country. So that’s fucken close to home.

Both of The Grey Lands books are fast and easy reads, I zoomed through each in 24 hours and had to wait a year for this sequel to come out. The characters are interesting, and not wholly sympathetic (which I enjoy). The world building is thorough and graphic, O’Guilin’s mind is a scary place and I’m happy to have its horrors mediated through ink and paper.

The Grey Lands books can also be read as a critique of British colonisation. The Invasion, in particular, is not backwards about this. If anything, the series offers what it might look like when colonised peoples do rise up against their oppressors. And it troubles the reader: we are positioned to sympathise with the child protagonists while recognising that they benefit from a legacy of theft and trauma that is thousands of years old. The story is set in a country where the colonisation is layered, one that is shrouded in myth, another that is more recent, and at the hands of the English. The country I live in is also surviving that invasion, and that’s an invasion in which I, and my family, am culpable. There’s a bitter thoroughness to part of my family having fled that into Ireland invasion, only to enact it against peoples and countries on the other side of the planet. This is compounded by the remainder of my family being that initial colonising force. So I didn’t enact these colonisation, but I certainly benefit from them. This layeredness, the conflation of culpability and an inability to materially rectify the harms that have been done leaves me with a sense of indebtedness, and it is a debt that I can never repay, not can it ever be forgiven.

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