The sea has taken everything.

But when much is taken, something is returned . . .

Mau left his home island to undergo a rite of passage to manhood. His child soul would remain behind on the other island, and his manhood soul was waiting for him at home. But on his return, the world is changed. A giant tsunami wave washes away his people and he is left, the soul survivor of his nation, somewhere between boyhood and manhood, without a soul, to try and rebuild. To succeed he will have to rely on ancient customs and beliefs, while at the same time learning to challenge the past, and question the superstitions that have guided his people. He rises to the amazing challenge. With the help of Daphne, a girl from across the world who is the soul survivor of a ship wreck left on his island, he overcomes the challenges and discovers a truth about his people which turns the world upside down.

I greatly enjoyed this book and found it left  me with a positive uplifting mood when I read it. The character in the book faces a great and terrible challenge when his world is washed away, and even though he loses sight of his path to the future, he never stops moving forward, becoming the person he needs to be to face whatever comes. In addition to the challenges of surviving in his new surroundings, he also faces a personal inner struggle to reconcile the beliefs and superstitions of his people with the tragedy that befell them. How could the Gods they honor and offer food sacrifices to, make this wave? He refuses to feel “grateful” for being spared when everyone was not and holds his ancestors and Gods accountable for the tragedy. This story offers a wonderful challenge to religion. It recognizes the importance of belief and ritual in helping someone deal with troubled times, and notes the practical benefits also. Properly disposing of your dead, and certain food prep rituals can prevent disease as well as provide emotional comfort. At the same time, it sharply points out the importance of continuing to learn and grow and challenge the world around you. A society deeply mired in the past and beholden to ancient ritual and superstition can stagnate and fail to advance in learning and technology, or even regress.

Terry Pratchett diverges from his Discworld series on this one, but manages to weave a compelling tale of adventure, survival and mystery. Add some philosophy, ghosts, cannibals, buried treasure, mutineers, sharks and beer you have a truly enjoyable read for Young Adults and Adults alike.