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Centred on the precariously settled coastal town of Desperance, a township shaped by cyclones, monsoonal floods and a river that spurns human endeavour with its incomprehensible tides, it tells the story of the powerful Phantom family. Led by Norm Phantom, the great fish-embalming king of time, legendary storyteller, suspected murderer and leader of the Pricklebush people, the Phantoms battle to retain sovereignty over a country where "legends and ghosts live side by side". Sovereignty depends on stories. The official version of the region's history makes no mention of the Phantoms or the Great War of the Dump that burst the Pricklebush people apart and set Eastsider against Westsider. Nor does it mention the old tribal tensions that resurfaced and the search for lost ancestral stories that lay claim to traditional ownership.
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