NB: I received an ARC of this book via the Amazon Vine Program. This book is slated for release in September.
Terry Pratchett is best known for his Discworld novels, ranging from the Colour of Magic to Making Money. Within that canon, Pratchett has written a few novels explicitly labeled for young adults (starting with the Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents).
In Nation, though, Pratchett turns away from Discworld and starts a sui generis YA novel set on a world very much like, but subtly different, than our own 19th century Earth. Nation tells the story of two survivors of what can be deduced to be a tidal wave in the South Pacific (here, Pelagic) Ocean: Mau, a young native of these islands whose traditional growth and path to manhood is interrupted when his people are nearly wiped out, and Ermentrude, the daughter (and granddaughter) of British nobility who happened to be on a ship in these waters when disaster struck. We also get hints that there is a different disaster going on in the wider world, too.
Nation is the story of the rebuilding of Mau’s Nation, as survivors meet and strive to survive on what remains of Mau’s island.
With this simple (but not simplistic) plot and structure, Pratchett brings us a story of survival that YA readers will love, but also throws in a lot for adult readers as well. Touches of his humour, familiar to anyone who has read Discworld, abound. There is even traces of philosophy and weightier matters, but they are only frosting on the solid and densely delicious cake of the novel. Action, adventure, survival, humor, reflection. The novel has everything that a High School English Teacher might hope for in a book to teach students, and has the writing, wit, and entertainment value that will allow those students to actually enjoy reading it.
And to be clear, although its a YA novel, adult fans of Pratchett, like myself, will also highly enjoy this novel. Its not Discworld and doesn’t pretend to be, but it has the same high quality of writing, well drawn characters, world building and entertainment value.