The Broken Raven – Joseph Elliott
Having loved the thrilling first instalment in Joseph Elliott's Shadow Skye trilogy, I was very excited to be asked to be on the blogtour for this return to Skye and the Clann-a-Tuath with Jaime and Agatha, and see what adventure would come their way this time!
A mix of Lord of the Rings-style quest (monsters, dark magic and underdogs on journeys) and Game of Thrones-style fantasy (rival clans, power struggles, alliances and betrayals), I was definitely not disappointed by this second instalment (and I'll try to write this with no spoilers!).
Action a-plenty, characters you care for, and a pacy plot make this a thrilling read, with plenty to engage readers journeying alongside Jaime again on a quest to save his people from the terrifying sgàilean, see Agatha and her animal-talking abilities again, and meet new character Sigrid, as she travels from her home in Norveg and uncovers threats looming large from the court of Inglund.
(IT'S SO HARD TO WRITE THIS WITHOUT SPOILERS!!!)
Continuing and developing plot points from the last book – evil, power-hungry kings, tribal rivalries, challenged loyalties and personal battles - the book is a powerful follow-on from much-praised (Carnegie-nominated, in fact!) ‘The Good Hawk’, and though an exciting adventure in its own right, my feeling is that it reads better if the first book has been read and you know the background and characters already (still no spoilers!).
The development of the characters and their battles, not just with the evil forces, but with other personal issues (same-sex attraction, prejudice towards Down’s syndrome, mental health) are a challenging but fantastically-written element of the book, and show Joseph Elliott’s understanding and experience in dealing with some of these issues from his work in the past in Special Needs Education. A token nod towards inclusion and representation this is not – there is genuine understanding and thought in the inclusion of these characters and their issues as part of the story and their journeys, and Joseph Elliott should be recognised and awarded well-deserved praise for this aspect of the series.
I love Joseph Elliott’s use of 'Scotian' dialect and language in these stories – the colloquial expressions and vernacular voice really help conjure up the character in front of the reader, and add authenticity to their individual stories, their voices genuinely alive and uniquely recognisable on the page. The feisty bravery of Sigrid; anxious, conflicted Jaime; straight-speaking and honest Agatha - all are brilliant narrators of their own part of this tale...I learned some new vocabulary from Sigrid within the first few pages, and I’m pretty sure some of it would get me in trouble if used in public! Original and funny, and a great addition to the writing, the different characters’ unique voices are one of the highlights of the writing and the story for me – 'hek brilliant', and anyone who disagrees is a skittin sickrotten grotcreep!
Dark, sinister threats run through the novel (as in The Good Hawk, and continuing on from the events that took place therein), adding a sense of suspense and impending doom for the characters that we, as readers, will them to avoid or conquer (the terrifying sgàilean are one of the scariest threats in a book I've read for a long time!)
Alongside all the drama and action, however, there is also a mix of humour, empathy for the characters and a message of hope...as in some of the best of children’s literature, Joseph Elliott successfully gets the reader of this book caring deeply about and supporting the underdogs on their seemingly impossible quest, seeking their success.
'In a world of shadows, hope can be found...'
What a series - recommended highly for older readers, I'd personally say Y7 upwards because of some of the issues it contains. I can't wait for the third and final instalment to see what comes for these great characters.
PHEW! Think I managed this without any spoilers!
Thanks to Rebecca and Walker Books for sending me a copy of this book to review, and for including me on the blogtour for the launch.
Walker Books are on Twitter as @WalkerBooks, and the website link for this book is:
Joseph Elliottt is on Twitter as @joseph_elliott, and his author website is:
Listen to Joseph talk about Carnegie-nominated 'The Good Hawk' (the first in this trilogy):
And read from The Broken Raven here:
Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot on Twitter and Instagram) January 2021