While on a journey to prove his manhood, a huge wave destroys everyone in Mau's life. He was in his canoe returning to his tropical island and barely survived the wave. When he reached his home, everyone he had known was dead or missing. Although he finished his ritual, he cannot be a man without the tatoos or recognition.
Daphne (her preferred name, rather than the one she was given at birth) was on a ship to join her father at a far flung English colony in the late 1800's. That same wave crashed her ship into Mau's island. She is the only survivor on the vessel. She stays hidden and watches Mau as he buries his people. Then she lets him see her. He knows very little about the "trousermen" as he calls the white people. She knows almost nothing about the natives of these islands. But they are the only two humans there. They have to start working together to survive.
As the days go on, people from other islands start arriving. All the tribes from surrounding islands knew of the Nation, Mau's people. They see his island as their refuge. When they have nothing of their own left, they get in their canoes and come to the Nation. The population grows until there is a largish community. Mau is in charge because he has proved himself. Daphne is his helper, and often the island healer.
There are two other sets of visitors they expect. The Raiders will come sometime soon. They are a cannibal tribe that visits all the surrounding island people. Also, Daphne knows her father is out looking for her. They will be able to determine her ship's last course and find where it crashed. By the time that happens, though, her life will have completely changed.
Nation is not one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. This is written for a younger audience. Pratchett uses a good story to discuss a lot of philosophy. Nation is set on a Pacific-type tropical island - Pratchett tells the reader at the end of the book that it takes place in an alternate reality.
The primitive culture of the Nation is content with its current state. Daphne's New World culture doesn't fit - and she doesn't allow it to get in the way after the first time she meets up with Mau (she tries to shoot him - but he thinks the gun is a fire starter). Daphne is unusual because she has had some scientific training until her starched and staid grandmother interfered. Daphne has already cultivated an open mind, so is able to work with Mau, combining bits of both of their worlds.
Pratchett pulls off the tale with a flair. The characters come to life. You can almost see the brothers who join them - the younger, talkative one and the older, stronger, supportive one. The Unknown Woman is withdrawn completely into herself except for caring for her baby. She slowly reaches out and the reader can see how difficult it is for her. Mau has inner discussions with the Grandfathers, the God of Death, and himself. His inner arguments are so well done the reader forgets there are weighty topics being considered. The ending is frustrating but realistic. It is the best way to end Mau's and Daphne's story.
While not laugh out loud like so many of the Discworld books, Terry Pratchett's Nation is clever, light, and amusing. It is sure to please.
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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