Title: The Good Hawk (Shadow Skye #1)
Author: Joseph Elliott
Cover Illustrator: Levente Szabo
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Historical fiction (alternate history), Fantasy
Book format: Paperback
Description: 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.
Jamie 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…
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: What an amazing story and start to a trilogy with a brilliant set of lead characters. Agatha is a Hawk, an important position in her clan as she helps to patrol the sea walls looking out for any potential dangers. Although she feels like she’s doing a good, others in her clan don’t, and one day, when a boat is sighted in the distance, Agatha makes a terrible mistake.
I have really enjoyed reading this book and it was easy to get into right away. Set in a sort of alternate version of historical Scotland, the tale begins on Skye where Agatha’s clan live. The story alternates between two main characters, Agatha and Jamie and both are written from the first person perspective which is especially interesting to read when you see Agatha’s chapters.
At the start of the book Agatha makes a big mistake, proving to many in her clan that she’s useless and doesn’t deserve the position of being a hawk. Although you don’t know it when you begin reading this, you soon realise that Agatha is different to everyone else and it’s because she has Down’s Syndrome. There are key clues to her being different in her behaviour towards others, the way she talks and also the way she narrates her chapters. Her sentences sound different and her thoughts in any situation are clearly different to your average character giving her a unique and very different voice to any I’ve ever read in a book. I really liked Agatha right away, the way she thinks and narrates is interesting and I enjoyed how resilient and brave she is.
Along with Agatha the other main character in the story is Jamie who has his own troubles. He’s an angler, except that being on the sea makes him ill and he suffers from panic attacks at different moments throughout the story. I liked Jamie’s character as much as Agatha’s, he goes through his own story arc becoming braver and more confident as time goes on. It’s hard to talk about the plot without giving too much away. A lot happens and Agatha and Jamie end up travelling across Scotia when something terrible happens to their clan. Although this takes place is an alternative version of Scotland, with a history that’s different, which felt strange to me at first, the way the story is written and the atmosphere that is evokes, especially in wild Scotia, is interesting and pulled me into the action. In the end I didn’t mind this alternate version of Scotland and found the plot really interesting!
There is quite an eerie feel to the story, especially when the characters enter Scotia and there are a few very short chapters narrated by a third character. These extra chapters and what happens while the characters are travelling through Scotia makes for a brilliant and quite dark adventure. I really enjoyed the feeling of the wild old Scotland, the wild animals and especially the highland cows! The fantasy elements of the story just added to how great this book felt. The ending wrapped up nicely, with a good satisfying finish, but then there’s an added epilogue which makes you desperate to read book two of the trilogy (even though it’s not out until 2021!).
The book has a map at the beginning showing Scotia, Skye and a few other locations that are important to the story. Every chapter also has an animal chapter header showing which character is narrating, as well as an image before every different part (there the book is in three parts). I really like the way these images look, there’s something very old-fashioned about them, like the maps of long ago. The cover image is also one I just can’t help but love, especially the highland cows, which feature a lot in this story! There is nothing offensive in the book, although there are descriptions of some killing and deaths which are a bit shocking in places and might be a bit shocking to very sensitive or younger teens to read. There is a bonus at the end of the book, an extract of book two, a short first chapter which ends in such a way that I doubt anyone wouldn’t be desperate to read book two after reading that extract!
I have really enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next in the series! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where a Down’s Syndrome character is the lead character and I just love the way that Agatha has been portrayed. She’s a brave and smart girl proving that even though some people are born different, it doesn’t mean they aren’t equal and can’t do amazing things. I’d recommend this book to anyone, especially if you enjoy a bit of fantasy, historical fiction or just a great adventure set in a world long ago (think the times of the vikings!).
What do you think about this book? Do you like books with an alternate history? What about books set in wilds of an old Scotland? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂