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Book Review: Exodus

Exodus
by Julie Bertagna

Mara Bell lives on a small island called Wing in what used to be known as the North Atlantic. Now, the whole world is flooded from the melting of the polar icecaps, and as far as the people of Wing know, they are the only ones left in the world. But even Wing is shrinking, as year by year and month by month, the sea rises, swallowing up what little land is left.

Then Mara, who has been using a defunct technology to explore the dead remnants of what used to be a global information network called the Weave, discovers that there may be others still alive: New World cities built above the water in the days when the seas started to rise. With no hope left and nothing to lose, the Wing islanders set out in small boats in hope of finding the New World city of New Mungo.

Mara’s boat reaches New Mungo at last, only to discover that things are far, far different than they expected. Mara learns just how much she does have to lose. But no matter how bad things get, Mara can’t give up. In the midst of devastation and despair, Mara is determined to find a way to help the people she cares about.

Although global warming is the topic of this book, Exodus is not a message novel. It’s just an amazing story that will keep you enthralled and touch your heart. It’s a story of the power of individuals to change the world. There are messages in the story – such as the need for individuals to take responsibility for their world – but Bertagna never lets those messages get in the way of what is, first and foremost, a good story. Mara displays unimaginable courage. Some of the things that she did literally made my heart race, and I can’t imagine that I would ever have the courage to do the things she did.

There’s so much that I loved about this book. I love that there’s no black and white absolutes. The character who is ultimately responsible for the evils of the New World is someone who started out trying to do the right thing but who made some bad decisions along the way. I love that Mara is, later in the book, faced with the same decision that she most blamed him for, although on a smaller scale, and that she comes to understand that it’s not such an easy decision.

I loved that, while there is a prophecy that seems to apply to Mara, it, too, is not black and white. Does Mara do the things she does because they were foretold? Or is it just a coincidence that some parts of the prophecy seem to match up with her? How much of Mara’s actions are predestined, and how much are just because she is a courageous, creative, and determined individual?

I loved the way the drowned city of Glasgow is portrayed, and how it is remembered by the people living amongst its ruins. I love that Mara questions why the “dreamswomen” are not remembered by history like the men.

Bertagna has done an outstanding job with world building. She created not one, but several richly developed cultures, from the treenesters living in harmony with nature, to the high tech city of New Mungo.

The story and central conflict in Exodus are wrapped up in a satisfactory way, but there is room for a sequel, and according to the excerpt in the back of the book, one is on the way. I look forward to reading Zenith when it’s released in the U.S. in April, 2009.

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