Agatha is a Hawk, brave and fierce, who protects her people by patrolling the high walls of their island home. She is proud of her job, though some in her clan whisper that it is meant to keep her out of the way because of the condition she was born with.Jaime, thoughtful and anxious, is an Angler, but he hates the sea. Worse, he’s been chosen for a duty that the clan hasn’t required for generations: to marry. The elders won’t say why they have promised him to a girl in a neighboring clan, but there are rumors of approaching danger.When disaster strikes and the clan is kidnapped, it is up to Agatha and Jaime to travel across the haunted mainland of Scotia to Norveg, with help along the way from a clan of nomadic Highland bull riders and the many animals who are drawn to Agatha’s extraordinary gift of communication. Thrilling and dark yet rich with humor and compassion, this is the first book in the Shadow Skye trilogy, written by a wonderful new voice in fantasy and introducing a welcome new kind of hero.
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The wind is on my nose and my eyes sting. I brought two cloaks today because I am clever. I pull them together with my hands. The tops of my fingers are numb but I don’t mind because it is my job and it is an important one.
I look at the sea. The waves are chopping up and down. Sometimes I follow a wave from as far away as I can see, all the way to where I am. I look at it and keep my eyes on it and try not to let it out of my eyes when it comes close and more close until it crashes. It is a hard thing to do and I am good at it.
When I was only young I wanted to go on the sea so much. I asked the Anglers and the Seals lots of times to take me on their boats but they wouldn’t. They shoved me away and called me a “good-for-nothing nuisance,” which is rude. I made the plan to do it myself and climbed up the wall when no one was looking and down the other side. It was a hard thing to do but easy for me because I’m good at climbing. The waves went on my legs and my face and I laughed because I liked it and it tasted like soup. Then a bigger wave came and I couldn’t hold on anymore and I fell. I could have drowned but one of the Hawks saw me and my arms splashing. “You stupid, stupid girl.” he said when he pulled me out. “You stupid, stupid girl.” I’m more clever now and I wouldn’t do it again.
After it happened I didn’t want to go on the boats anymore. I stayed inside the enclave and didn’t look at the sea until they gave me my dreuchd. I was very happy that day because they made me a Hawk, which is my duty and an important one. One day I will save someone from drowning too like when the Hawk saved me.
“You look cold.”
It is Lenox who says that, who is another Hawk. “Go into the turret and warm up. I lit a fire,” he says as well. His eyebrows go scrunchy when he talks. They are big ones and black.
“I don’t— want to,” I say and shake my head. I don’t like going in the turret because when I’m inside I’m not looking at the sea which is what I should be doing.
“Go on, little girl, it’s for your own good,” he says, and he pushes my back. I hate it when he calls me “little girl” because I am not a little girl. I am fifteen so he shouldn’t call me that. I do a big frown so he sees it.
When I am in the turret, I kick the fire because I don’t want to be there and bits of it fly up to the walls. It’s a small room in a circle. I should not have kicked the fire. Now it might go out, which would be bad. I scrape the bits with my shoe and add some more sticks to make it big again. Even though I didn’t want to come, it is nice to be hot and I move my fingers which is nice as well. I undo my first cloak and the other one underneath so I can reach the pocket on my top where Milkwort is. He is warm which is good because I was worried he would be cold. I put him next to the fire because he likes it there. In my trousers is some bread that I saved. I give some to him and keep some for later. He thanks me and eats it while looking at the fire.
“Don’t get too close,” I warn him.
Milkwort is my friend and a vole and a secret. No one knows about him. Except Maistreas Eilionoir. I don’t know how she found out. She is old and knows everything. When she found out she pulled me into her bothan and told me to get rid of him.
“You could be severely punished for this,” she said. She was holding on to my arm tight and it hurt a lot even though she is old and her hands are small.
“I know,” I said, and I tried to pull my arm away. People think that I’m stupid but I’m not stupid.
“Get rid of it. Before someone finds out who isn’t as forgiving as I am.” She let go of my arm and I rubbed it and then I left.
“All right, Aggie, my turn.”
The voice is a surprise to me. I must have been staring at the fire for longer than I thought. It is Flora who is there and it is her turn to come in. I am in panic because she may have seen Milkwort. My eyes look to where he was. He’s not there.
“I need to do up my cl-cloaks. Give me one— one moment, will you?”
It is lucky that Flora turns away so I can search for Milkwort without her seeing. I want to call for him, but Flora will hear me if I do that, so I only do it in my head. Talking to animals is not dùth, which means you shouldn’t do it. He is nowhere by the fire and there is nothing for him to hide behind. He wouldn’t have run away. He would never leave me. Then I spot him in a gap between the stones in the wall. It was clever for him to go there. I hold out my hand. He jumps onto my arm and behind my neck and into the pocket again. That was close. I do up my cloaks the quickest possible.
“I’m done,” I say to Flora.