Books & Literature

Book Review: The Good Hawk, by Joseph Elliott

YA FANTASY: The first in a rich fantasy-adventure trilogy full of warring clans, deadly shadows and devastating plagues…

A beautiful story of the love and courage of two teenagers as they rise above their fears and try to save their clan.

Joseph Elliott is an English writer, teacher and actor, best known for his work in children’s television, mainly the CBeebies television series Swashbuckle.

The Good Hawk is his first foray into writing novels and is the first book in the Shadow Skye Trilogy. It is a story of friendship and courage. Joseph has used his experience working with children with disabilities to create a lead character suffering from an unknown condition which is possibly Down Syndrome. The story is set on the island of Skye, off the coast of Scotia, in a mythical time. Elliot has drawn inspiration from the time of the Vikings and clans of Scotland. He also uses some words from the Scottish Gaelic language.

Agatha is a Hawk which means she is responsible for patrolling the walls of the enclave to protect her clan. She loves being a Hawk, but she has been given this position mostly to keep her out of the way. Jaime is an angler who is responsible for boats and fishing. Unfortunately, Jaime is afraid of the water and would do anything to not be an angler. Both are around 15 years of age and have only recently been given their positions in the clan.

Their clan, Clann-a-Tuath, is run by the elders, or maighstirs, who make sure the rules are adhered to and everyone fulfils their responsibilities. The rules of their clan are centuries old and marriages are not part of their society but, for some reason unknown to Jaime, he has been chosen to marry a girl from a neighbouring clan and the thought terrifies him. All Jaime knows is that the safety of the clan hinges on the marriage.

The day after the wedding, while Jaime and his new wife are at sea, their enclave is attacked, and the entire clan is kidnapped. So begins the journey of Agatha and Jaime to save the people they love.

Elliott has been able to create endearing characters with their own unique voice. Agatha clearly has a learning disability, but she always strives to do her best despite having a temper she finds difficult to control, and not always understanding what is happening around her. Her thoughts are often disjointed, and she speaks with a stutter which emphasises her disability and makes it easy for the reader to understand the difficulties she has relating to the world around her. It is refreshing to be able to understand her in this way.

Jaime has many fears but throughout the book both he and Agatha show true bravery. The chapters alternate between the voice of Agatha and Jaime, and as the story moves along a new unknown character is introduced.

The Good Hawk has enough familiarity that we feel comfortable in this world, but also newly created beings to keep us interested and on our toes.

Agatha and Jaime are unlikely heroes who will put aside their fears to save those they love. As they travel across Scotia, they come across unfamiliar people with different customs, scary creatures and those who would rather they were dead, but together they face and overcome these dangers using all their strength of character and ingenuity. The friendships formed along the way are heart-warming and non-judgemental and all of the main characters are endearing.

The Good Hawk is a fabulous new trilogy and I am looking forward to continuing the journey with Agatha and Jaime as we discover what adventures await them.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Walker Books Australia
Released: February 2020
RRP: $16.99


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