The broken raven by Joseph Elliott

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The Broken Raven, sequel to The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott does not disappoint the iniated readership and in fact calls for a third book to follow up the powerful, operatic ending. Joseph Elliott creates a highly visual setting in the readers' mind and an almost visceral bodily reaction; the books  would lend themselves to screen adaptation.

The reader is taken to the old Norse world of clan survival; of ice, peat bog and savage living. The imagination is excited with cracking pace action and sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal but always harsh imagery. The characterisation is tight. The plot itself requires hard work on behalf of the reader as it is comprised of multiple threads with the story progressing in alternating chapters which switch to track the story of the three main characters. The reader has to mentally jump backwards and forwards to follow these stories and pick up the threads. Each story fragment ends with such cliff hanging situations that it is not difficult to recall previous action but mental leaps on behalf of the reader are required.

It is exciting to find a writer who is bold enough to make serious demands of young readership again. Elliott is not going for the cheap laugh, the easy plot. His readers are going to have to work hard. They will have to overcome difficulties with the strangeness of the Norse elements and the dialects of the Norse people: of Skye, Scotia, Raasay, Ingland and Norveg. Like reading Shakespeare the synapses will be firing. This is good literature. This is what we want our young readers to be exposed to and to wrestle with. These books are not lazy reads.

The Broken Raven is about the politics, alliances and skullduggery of a bygone period in some ways similar to the Vikings. The young protagonists are willing to give their lives in the firece protection of their clans and loved ones in the most ferocious of contexts with fantastic, murderous foes. They are on exceedingly dangerous quests. This is survival. Elliott does not hold back in his descriptions of unspeakable violence and brutality. Like the protagonists, the young reader has to find the strength and resolve to understand that there are nasty realities in the real world and they must learn to cope. The overriding values of loyalty, love and protection of the vulnerable are paramount. 

Highly recommended to a discerning readership. 

Themes: Norse fantasy, Clan loyalty,.

Wendy Jeffrey