A thoughtful Nation

This review is a little after the fact, but every new Pratchett book needs eventual attention. And this new book, Nation, is fantastic.  

It doesn’t have a giant turtle, or any elephants, and there are no witches and dwarves, but it does have its own creation myth, giant tidal waves, spirits, dolphins, and tree-climbing octopi.

It’s a variation from the norm for Pratchett, but it’s a beautiful conundrum of coming-of-age, religion, truth, and culture on a round world nonetheless.

Set in an alternative timeline of the 19th century, Nation begins with the ominous lurk of a plague (that’s destroying the monarchy of Britain) only to turn around with a loud bang to the total destruction of the South Pacific islands. This horrifying occurrence brings Daphne (Ermintrude by birth), the 139th in line for the throne, and Mau, a native boy whose rite of passage into manhood was ruined by the wave and all his family and friends killed, together.

Daphne and Mau are mere teenagers who are thrust with the responsibility of survival of themselves and several others that join their group.

With cultures colliding, Daphne’s proper British upbringing full of mannerisms and ideas and Mau’s island beliefs and customs, Nation calls religion (the creation myth of the book) into question and spills harsh truths that people might be better off not knowing. But leaders, which Daphne is to be (with the royal line dying off until her) and Mau (who is acclaimed by the survivors to be one), come with hardships.

And these hardships enhance their character development and make them relatable and enduring. So much so that I cried and laughed with Daphne and Mau as they grew. The rage and betrayal that Mau felt at his gods from the death of his family, then the truth of his gods, even made my heart race and my knuckles white.

Pratchett has constructed a masterful piece of literature that enthralls the readers and enriches them with the truths of the world. It’s full of adventure and action and ideas that’ll make you think for ages to come.

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