Joseph Elliott, The Good Hawk (Shadow Skye #1), Walker Books Ltd., February 2020, 368 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406385854
‘If everything was taken from you, what would you do to get it back?‘
Agatha patrols the sea wall with pride, despite those in her clan who question her right to be there, because of the condition she was born with. Jaime is a reluctant Angler, full of self-doubt and afraid of the sea. When disaster strikes, the pair must embark on a terrifying journey to a land where forgotten magic and dark secrets lurk in every shadow…
The Good Hawk is an historic fantasy novel, set in Scotland against the backdrop of warring clans and dark forces. This is Joseph Elliott’s first novel, and he has crafted a spellbinding tale of magic and adventure.
Our main character is Agatha, a young girl with Down’s Syndrome who takes great pride in her job as a Hawk – the watchers on the wall on guard against dangers from the sea. The story is told from two perspectives – firstly Agatha, and then Jaime, the unwilling Angler who hates the sea. Elliott has given the two characters very unique and distinct voices that tell us a lot about their personalities. Agatha is brave, loyal and devoted to the Hawks but also at times impulsive and impetuous. Jaime is shy, cautious, gentle-hearted and quiet, and feels as though an Angler’s fishing boat is the last place on earth he belongs. Between them, we get a strong sense of life on the Isle of Skye, its way of life as well as its perils. Elliott has done a remarkable job bringing his characters to vivid life.
The story is set in what Elliott calls “a version of Scotland” – some elements are the same, but some differ slightly, such as languages, places and names resembling but distinct from those that we know. The period is in the distant past, however from time to time I began to wonder if perhaps it was actually the future, after some great cataclysm that left everyone on the mainland dead, and sent everyone else back to the dark ages… however that could be just my overactive imagination getting carried away with Elliott’s rich storytelling and lavish descriptive prose!
The book will suit young readers from around the ages of 13 to 16 years old… there are some horror scenes as well as some blood and violence – nothing too over the top but probably not suited to anyone under 12. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Good Hawk, and it will be very interesting to see how the rest of the trilogy plays out, and where these amazing characters will go next!
Reviewed by Christian Price