The Calling

Written by Philip Caveney
Review by Marion Rose

This is an unusual ‘historical’ novel that magically transports famous figures of the past to the present, where they help resolve both a mystery and a crime.

A boy wakes on a train to find he has lost his memory. He arrives in Edinburgh on the annual night of The Calling, when all the city’s statues come alive for 24 hours. He is the only human (so far!) who stays awake to witness it.

These two startling ideas frame a story in which young ‘Ed’ meets major figures from Scottish history who respond to his plight. The first is Colonel Robert Macintosh Alexander, who clatters off his plinth on a black metal horse and fills in any historical gaps in Ed’s (and the reader’s) knowledge “You’ll know nothing of…our famous charge against Napoleon at Waterloo… our noble endeavours in the Boer war!” He whisks Ed into the saddle and takes him off to find David. David Livingstone, that is.

Other characters become involved, their backgrounds all deftly sketched in: King Charles II, Sir Walter Scott, Sherlock Holmes, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert etc. Charles wants to execute Ed, but Sherlock is intrigued by his situation and takes up his case. An action-filled adventure unfolds with futuristic elements like portals, and satisfyingly traditional ones like battles fought and baddies overcome.

The statues are great fun, grumbling about the way their sculptor ‘interpreted’ them and jostling between themselves for status based on ‘age’. The reality of how larger-than-life metal or stone figures might move and fight is well evoked, so much so that I could picture this working brilliantly as an animation. A map shows where all thirteen statues are, and whether or not readers can visit them. This is a stonking good read for anyone of 10+.