Tuesday, January 7, 2020

MG Historical Fantasy review of The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott

39679039The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Walker Books US

Number of Pages:  368
Publishing:  January 21st, 2020
Source:  Netgalley

Opening Line: "The wind is on my nose and my eyes sting."

The Good Hawk is a historical fantasy set in mythic Scotland.  Agatha and Jaime are members of the Clann a Tuath from Skye island.  Agatha is a Hawk and spends her days on the wall as a lookout for any possible invaders.  Jamie is an Angler who hates the sea.  He'd always wanted to be a Wasp and make boats, but the enclave doesn't get to choose their profession.  Instead, it's unlawful to do anything else then what they've been assigned.  For generations, marrying was also outlawed, but Jamie is due to marry Lileas from a neighboring island.  No reason is given, but it's suspected that the clans want to form stronger bonds and align against a possible threat from the Deamhain.  

On the day following Jamie's wedding, an invading force of Deamhain kidnaps the clan.  Being the only remaining villagers, Agatha, Jaime, and Lileas set sail after the invaders to try and rescue the clan.  Along the way, they face many perils, including being overpowered by a Deamhain soldier they've captured who is linked to the leader of the invading army and having their boat sink off the coast of Scotia, a place that is rumored to be haunted.  Once on the mainland Agatha and Jaime encounter a clan of Highland bull riders which requires Agatha to use her hidden talents of communicating with animals to get the clan to escort them to the east.  They also meet a Mad Queen and upon reaching Norveg come head to head with the king of Deamhain.  But once their bargaining chip is lost, how will they convince the king to let their clan go?

The Good Hawk was inspired by Elliott's own work with children with learning disabilities.  Agatha's character is meant to portray a young girl with Down Syndrome who is misunderstood by her own clan, often placed in the care of others so she doesn't get into any trouble.  The story alternates between Agatha and Jaime with both voices being very distinct.  Agatha can get angry at times and maybe is easily infatuated by the other male characters, but she is endearing and cares for her clan deeply.   Jaime is brave and only becomes overwhelmed by all of the dangers that they've encountered.   He has the tendency to doubt himself and feels weak for it.  

The various clans have varying beliefs and practices.  This is where I found a few potential issues.   For one, Jaime shows insensitivity and intolerance in his interactions with a character who is gay.  He not only says he's "heard of people like that," but that he "knows it's not right."  Maybe this was meant to reflect the thinking of the time period,  given that even Agatha is told by one of the clan's elders that she "should have been drowned at birth."  I just wish that the author would have included more current positive depictions and thoughts in here as well.   Maybe have Jaime defend Agatha against the elder's words by saying how she is a kind compassionate person.  Or continue to highlight Agatha's capabilities despite any physical or mental differences she may have to show the elder's ignorance.   I know it may be a small piece of an otherwise wonderful adventure but just these few instances soured the story for me slightly.       


  1. Sorry you didn't 100 percent love this. Those things would bother me too.

  2. I haven't heard of this one before. You brought up great points about the things that bothered you. Maybe there will be some changes between the ARC and what is published. :) Thanks for sharing.

    1. I hope they do make those few changes. I really liked that the author included a character with Down Syndrome into the story. Agatha is really lovely and I was sad for the pieces where the elders were mistreating her.