Reviewed by Sarah Merchant
The Broken Raven
‘Everyone deserves to live the greatest possible life.’
This is the second book in The Shadow Skye Trilogy, set in an alternate Scotland. It tells the stories of Agatha, Jaime and Sigrid, which are woven together very well. Readers will enjoy epic descriptions of fighting clans, dangerous magic, promises of revenge and haunting, windswept locations.
Agatha and Jaime were proclaimed heroes at the end of book one, yet we learn that there is still great unrest in Scotia, Ingland and Norveg. I was struck by new character Sigrid – gifted, pragmatic, proud, inked with a raven at the start, who becomes a king’s ‘eyes’ and a key player. Things reach a head in the book when Agatha unintentionally releases ‘sgailean’ or shadows, which are dark entities formed through blood magic.
Young people, aged from about eleven years and upwards, will appreciate the fantasy, atmosphere and strong, convincing characters. Agatha, who has Down Syndrome, is honest, fearless and empathetic. I was really taken with her and found myself cheering her on out loud! Her relationship and rapport with the natural world is delightful.
This book would be an ideal opening to discussing mental health with young people. Jaime struggles with identity and anxiety through much of the book, which adds to its depth. Haunted by past mistakes, he must work through panic attacks and learn where he belongs in an often cruel, unaccepting world. I found his personal story especially powerful.
I also think that readers would gain from the dialect, language and wordplay used by Joseph Elliott. He combines Scottish Gaelic, Old Norse and theatrical, playful juxtapositions of words to good effect. I loved phrases like ‘stormfire eyes’, ‘scraggin ratcorpse’ and ‘bloodsplash invasion’, as they added both flair and precision to the plot.
Joseph Elliott writes what will excite a diverse range of readers. For young people on journeys towards self-acceptance and self-love, this book is well worth reading for its storytelling and its conviction.