The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott
Agatha is a Hawk. It's her job to keep watch and defend her isolated settlement against invasion from across the sea, and she is good at it. But she is also different, and that makes her position in her beloved clan precarious.
When terror arrives Agatha sets out on a journey to rescue her stolen and enslaved people; she and her friend Jaime must face murderous enemies, hardship and betrayal, tests of strength and courage and – most terrifying of all – the sgailean, whispering shadow-creatures which live to kill. At last Agatha begins to understand her own power; but will she be in time to save everything she loves?
Protagonists with Down's Syndrome are rare. That's because it's very hard to inhabit a different reality convincingly. But Agatha was so real to me, her voice instantly alive: so funny, robust, warm, astute, confident and irrepressible that I recognised in her aspects of my beloved sister, who also had Down's. Her headlong courage and her stubborn refusal ever to give up or to apologise for who she is –these things were deeply familiar to me. I can't remember the last time I so badly wanted a character to be okay. Fortunately, Agatha is well able to look after herself. And everyone else, too
All four members of Team Alligator who have read The Good Hawk have loved it, which is a very high approval rating for a book. Usually there is a fierce debate and I threaten to revoke biscuit-eating privileges until everyone agrees with me (it's a bookshop, not a democracy), but I didn't have to do that this time. The Good Hawk has page-turning thrills, love, adventure, friendship, an utterly original heroine, a pleasingly complex hero, and a cute vole sidekick. I mean who doesn't love a cute vole sidekick? Shout out to Milkwort. I look forward to meeting Agatha, Jaime and Milkwort in the sequel, and I'm so pleased to celebrate the shiny new talent that is Joseph Elliott. More please Joseph; we all need to know what happens next.
Above: Joseph Elliott visits the shop and signs stock, March '20