Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99
Enter a fabulous new adventure-fantasy series that will not just enthral readers with its ‘difference’ being set in a fictional parallel landscape but with its wonderful celebration of another type of difference. Agatha and Jamie are of the Clann-a-Tuath, one of the clans on the isle of Skye and a clan which has abandoned the practice of marriage or child-raising by defined parents. In this clan the whole community takes responsibility for children who are assigned to roles as they grow older. Jamie has become an Angler going out on the boats to fish – which he hates because of his terrible sea-sickness. Agatha is assigned as a Hawk, one who watches from vantage points to protect the clan from invaders. Agatha too has some difficulties with her role although she is closely supervised because as the reader realises from the start, Agatha is ‘different’. Some refer to her as ‘broken’ but others in the clan accept her difference and help her to develop her strengths, such as Maistreas Eilionoir.
In complete contradiction to their long-held customs the clan has arranged a marriage between Jamie and a girl of the clan Raasay in order to (so they think) ensure a strong alliance. In fact, they have been duped and clan Raasay betray them to the deamhain from far-off Norveg, ruthless barbarians with cruel intentions.
So begins an epic quest as Agatha and Jamie, the lone survivors of the attack, determine to track, find and rescue their captured clan members. To the mainland of Scotia where people have long been wiped out by a dreadful plague released upon them by the evil King Edmund in the south the pair flee, reluctantly taking along a captured deamhan who claims to be a prince in his own land, as a bargaining chip. Along their way they encounter a strange tribe, riders and companions of shaggy Highland cattle, who become allies and even stranger a mad Queen who has somehow survived plague and shadow beings alone in her castle for forty years. The rescue is arduous and long and always fraught with danger but throughout both Jamie and Agatha, who may be ‘broken’ but also has special powers, prove themselves as worth heroes over and over again, despite all odds.
This is fantastical, creepy, at times violent, but ultimately a wonderful tale of bravery, loyalty and compassion.
Elliott draws on his experience of working with children with special needs to create a memorable character, in Agatha, who is able, intuitive, fiercely loyal, sweet and funny in spite of, or perhaps because of, her Down’s Syndrome. Jamie is equal to her in many of these attributes and is able to conquer his fear, which is after all the true measure of courage, and draw on hidden strengths.
Readers from around 12 years upwards will love this for its unusual settings and characters, the use of adapted and invented languages and the full-on adventure of the rescue mission.