Mau is just a boy in the Nation — an island in the Pelagic Ocean. He’s off on Boy’s Island, in between souls, when the wave hits and wipes out his island. Left alone, he is despairing: how could the gods do this to the Nation? Then he meets Ermantine (hereafter known as Daphne, since it’s a much more sensible name): a girl from England, who was on a ship that ended up crashing on the Nation because of the wave. At first — because this is how all things go — they are wary of each other, but then, when other refugees see their fire and come toward the island, they begin to forge a new Nation of their own.
I’m not terribly schooled in the world of Terry Pratchett, having only read the Tiffany Aching books, but I loved this one. It’s nothing like those books (and probably nothing like the Discworld ones, either), but it’s absolutely engrossing in its own way. It’s about many things: love and loss, religion and science, exploration and stagnation, discovering and retaining. But it’s mostly the story of two people who figure out new ways of doing things, who find truth in the little things, and who manage to create something out of what had become nothing. It’s got all of Pratchett’s signature touches: the world is 90 percent ours, but it’s just off enough to make it fantastically different and wonderful. It’s full of love and life and humor. It doesn’t have a something-magical-happens ending (like in the Tiffany Aching books); in fact the ending is as far from magical as possible, and just about perfect.
In short: it’s storytelling at its finest.
Rated: Mild — several instances of mild swearing.