I got hooked and read this in a day, and I have to say I think that's the best thing David Bridger has ever written. Not only that, it's the best book by anyone I've read for quite some time. I don't think that's just because I usually prefer more naturalistic writing, and although this is technically fantasy it takes place in a very believable and realistic setting, but also that it touches on some profound and universal emotions, especially for anyone who is middle-aged or older. In particular, it is stirringly, believably and in some ways comfortingly good on loss, and on the differences between a "good" and "bad" death, the strange beauty of a peaceful passing.
The plotting, while not the most important aspect of it, seemed very neat and economical - nothing was irrelevant, the smallest details became significant when other surprises were revealed. It repays another reading to see what you barely noticed the first time round that will make you say "aha!" later.
I want to say more about the setting. Almost all of the action takes place in a Cornish village that could only have been described so vividly by someone who has immersed himself in that environment (and it is an environment I know quite well myself, so I do know what I'm talking about). In some ways I was reminded of Joanne Harris's French villages and small towns, the continuity and attention to detail that is clear in the names of the local people, many of them related, and the lightly drawn but vividly memorable sketches of people at work and the time-honoured techniques they use. But this is a very different kind of story, and although there is magic it is a subtle kind - you can entirely relate to these characters and their lives. I particularly liked the sympathetic treatment of the characters who were, in a sense, the antagonists - no-one is entirely without merit in this drama. Its is a kind world, described by a kind-hearted writer.
"Thought-provoking" is a clichéd word, but in the days since I first read this I have often found myself returning to it in my mind, exploring possibilities of other endings, wondering what different turns my own life might have taken if I had had the insights this protagonist has, picturing the coastline and the secret places the younger characters discover. It may not be a long book, but it will stay with you for a long time.