Title: The Good Hawk
Author: Joseph Elliott
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Published: 1st February 2020
Synopsis: A rich fantasy adventure trilogy, full of warring clans, deadly shadows and devastating plagues…
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… Thrilling and dark, yet rich with humour and compassion, this novel marks the debut of a wonderful new voice in fantasy and a welcome new kind of protagonist – perfect for fans of The Girl of Ink and Stars, Garth Nix and Michelle Paver.
- The first in an epic new fantasy adventure trilogy aimed at upper middle-grade readers and young teens.
- The Good Hawk aligns most closely with Michelle Paver’s internationally acclaimed and bestselling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, which is set in a pre-agricultural Stone Age Europe. It is also perfect for fans of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series (Sabriel etc.), Christopher Paolini’s Eragon and Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars.
- Protagonist Agatha has Down’s syndrome in a world where her condition is unnamed, making her an unusual and much-needed fantasy protagonist.
About the author
Joseph Elliott is a writer and actor, well-known for his work in children’s television including CBeebies series “Swashbuckle”. His commitment to serving children with special education needs was instilled at a young age: his mother is a teacher trained in special needs education, and his parents provided respite foster care for children with additional needs. He has worked at a recreational centre for children with learning disabilities and as a teaching assistant at Westminster Special Schools. The heroine of his first book, The Good Hawk, was inspired by the many incredible children he has worked with, especially those with Down’s syndrome.
Set in a fantasy world that is very much like Scotland and Northern Europe, and the conflict between clans, The Good Hawk puts Jaime, an Angler who fears the sea, and Agatha, who proudly patrols the sea wall, together when their clan is attacked. Agatha has Downs Syndrome – which is unnamed in the book, as it is understood in this world that they do not have a name for it yet – that marks her as different. Yet she is fiercely loyal to her clan and to Jaime, and Jaime is loyal to her.
As Agatha and Jaime head off on their journey to save their clan, they travel across the Isle of Skye, and encounter challenges and people who underestimate Agatha. Together, Agatha and Jaime will cross dangerous seas and fall into a treacherous world of magic and conflicting beliefs that at times seem to be complimentary, and at times are confusing on both sides, but what I found effective and very well executed was that the clans that helped Jaime and Agatha made the effort to understand the protagonists, and everyone had room to explain their clan’s practices.
In contrast, the community across the seas that Agatha and Jaime are headed to so they can save their clan stares at them in disbelief that they don’t hold certain traditions, or believe in certain things, and is determined to change that. But what will this treacherous and dangerous journey bring to Agatha and Jaime?
The Good Hawk is told through the first-person alternating perspectives from Jaime and Agatha. In doing this, it reveals lots about each character and how they react to the outside world, to each other and the world they live in. They see things differently and sometimes the same way and have a common goal. Everything is peeled back slowly, as each aspect of the mystery and journey is revealed in a magical and mysterious way that suits the story and setting.
Joseph works with children with Downs Syndrome, and these experiences inspired this book which sees a disabled character as the hero and a primary perspective in the story. Agatha speaks for herself, and this is what makes her powerful. Whilst in her world, her condition has no name, everyone knows she is different. But she has her talents, her skills, and a myriad of abilities that sees her take charge at times and ensure that Jaime and those she travels with can achieve what they want. I loved that she stood up for herself and the people around her that made the effort to understand her and see her as Agatha rather than the one something is wrong with. It is refreshing to see disability seen in this way, and it stands out in stark contrast to those who diminish and demean Agatha, who was my favourite character.
I loved that she stood up for herself, and she was brutally honest. All characters had their personality flaws, but this made them stronger as they learned to navigate an uncertain future. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I am so keen for the next books. A world with a disabled character front and centre, and based on Scotland is one that I can really get into. I’m eager to read the next book, and the follow up. Book two, The Broken Raven, is out this year with Walker Books.