Hardcover: 300 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (11 Sep 2008)
It's a measure of how successful a setting Pratchett's Discworld is that it has been the setting for the large majority of his work. It's a long time since the Bromeliad trilogy (Diggers, Truckers, Wings) or the Johnny Maxwell trilogy. So to have here a book that is not set on Discworld is almost a shock. Instead, this is set on Earth, or at least somewhere pretty like Earth in the early 19th Century. A major epidemic has killed the King of England, and much of the establishment too, and the nearest heir is somewhere in the South Pelagic Ocean (the South Seas). It appears that the heir must be returned to England and crowned within a limited period, or the throne will pass to a Frenchman, under the rules of the Magna Carta (or at least, of the little known, hammered-out-by-civil-servant version thereof). So an expedition departs to try to find him.
In an initially unconnected story, the young Mau is away from his home island, undergoing his initiation quest. He's just finishing this, paddling back to the Nation, when a tidal wave strikes. When he finally reaches home, all that he finds of his entire people are battered or drowned corpses.
Another casualty of the wave and storm is the ship Sweet Judy, which is dashed ashore on the same island with but a single survivor (unless you count a particularly cantankerous parrot), the girl
You don't often get Pratchett working with totally new character, but Mau and Daphne are a delight. They are strongly influenced by the author's sense of humanism, and though the start is pretty bleak, the general theme is uplifting. Like the Tiffany books, and The Amazing Maurice, this is aimed at 'Young Adults', but that inclination is only very subtly signified (the cover states 'Carnegie Medal-Winning Author'), and with its themes of death, justice and self-discovery, I would expect few adults not to enjoy it. In brief, it's a delight.