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The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves Hardcover – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, October 2008: With the publication of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume I back in 2006, M.T. Anderson assured readers that his gripping account of the American Revolution from the perspective of a young slave in colonial Boston would continue. Volume I received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and the anticipation among critics and readers inevitably grew for the story to continue. Thankfully, Anderson is a man of his word. With The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves Anderson has not just delivered an equally haunting second and final act to his hero's story, he's also completed a literary masterpiece that simply blows away its limited categorization as Young Adult lit. Octavian II engages the reader (teenaged or otherwise) to reimagine the birth of the nation from an unfamiliar perspective--that of an African American slave compelled by incredible circumstance, and the hope of freedom, to fight in a counterrevolutionary army. No less than David McCullough and Joseph Ellis, Anderson turns everything you thought you knew about American history sideways. Through his expert incorporation of historical detail and colonial-era voice, the novel transports us deep into the perilous military and moral battles that defined the American Revolution. That these historical conflicts continue to inform today's charged debates about national identity and purpose makes his novels all the more relevant and powerful. --Lauren Nemroff

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From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Octavian, the 16-year-old slave whose story began in The Pox Party (Candlewick, 2006), continues his search for identity in this brilliant, affecting, and philosophical sequel. Octavian and his tutor escape from Octavian's master to relative safety in Boston where Octavian finds work as a violinist in a military band. After hearing of Lord Dunmore's promise of freedom for slaves, he enlists in the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Following a loss at Norfolk, they then take up quarters aboard British ships, barely fending off starvation and smallpox. Octavian's uncertainty and doubt are tangible throughout. His detailed first-person narration is written in the richly expansive 18th-century prose introduced in volume one. He records the story while reviewing (and revealing to readers) his diary entries from the past year, so that "none of this shall pass from remembrance." He endures abuse, shame, grief, and humiliation, and comes close to despair; however, he is ultimately hopeful that humanity can aspire to more than warring and despoiling. Teens will identify with Octavian's internal tumult, how he experiences events as being acted upon him, and his transition from observer to participant, from boy to man. More than fascinating historical fiction, this is also a thoughtful and timeless examination of the nature of humanity and a critique of how society addresses (or ignores) identity, freedom, and oppression. Anderson's masterful pacing, surprising use of imagery and symbolism, and adeptness at crafting structure make this a powerful reimagining of slavery and the American Revolution dazzle.—Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1st edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763629502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763629502
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #946,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
THE KINGDOM ON THE WAVES is the second volume in M. T. Anderson's historical epic The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, which is set in colonial America on the eve of the Revolutionary War. Octavian is a slave who has been raised in isolation at the College of Lucidity. In the first book, THE POX PARTY, Octavian comes to realize that he is part of an experiment on ethnicity and intelligence. After the death of his mother, he leaves the college and experiences the difficulties and hazards of living in the outside world. Recaptured, bound in chains and silenced with an iron mask, THE POX PARTY ends with one of his teacher's helping him to escape.

This follow-up begins with the two fugitives running to British-occupied Boston, where Octavian finds work in an orchestra entertaining British officers. It is not long before Boston comes under attack from the colonial rebels. When Octavian hears that Lord Dunmore is raising a troop of African soldiers, he enlists with the British on the promise that he will earn his freedom by fighting for the Crown.

Instead, Octavian learns that serving as a soldier is another kind of bondage, especially for the dark-skinned Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Consisting primarily of escaped slaves, the promise of freedom wanes as the fortunes of war turn against the British. THE KINGDOM ON THE WAVES features the Revolutionary War as readers have rarely encountered it. It is a tale of desperate yearning for freedom among those who will be returned to slavery should the colonial rebels attain their goal of independence.

The Royal Ethiopian Regiment is the first experience Octavian has spending time with a large group of his fellow slaves.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on May 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Gold Star Award Winner!

For those of you who immersed yourself in the world of THE POX PARTY, you must read M. T. Anderson's second volume, THE KINGDOM ON THE WAVES. I would highly recommend you read the two volumes in order.

In volume two, Octavian escapes the cruelty of Mr. Gitney and, with his former tutor, Dr. Trefusis, on his back, flees across the mud-flats to Boston. Once there, they are able to find lodging, trading only upon the name and reputation of the deathly ill Dr. Trefusis. With war closing in on Boston and their hostess in dire need of payment, Octavian once again finds himself with violin in hand, earning a small amount to apply toward their room and board. At this point, I was still cheering for Octavian, the escaped slave, hoping that he finally would find joy, peace and, most of all, freedom; yet at the same time, knowing that there must be more challenges ahead.

As the Revolutionary War advances, Octavian hears that the Royalists are promising freedom to all slaves who fight for the King of England. He joins and dons his uniform, a shirt inscribed with the words "Liberty to Slaves." We are immediately immersed in the struggle to prepare an ill-equipped regiment for war. He becomes a member of Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment. Here, for the first time, he is surrounded by other slaves who speak other languages. They tell glorious tales of their homes in Africa and sing rousing songs that make his heart pound. They see him as different, a white man in a black body, and brand him with the name Buckra.

Octavian marches into his first battle behind other regiments, amazed that those first to confront the Rebels are little more than a sacrifice. He does not understand the logic behind this type of fighting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Kingdom of the Waves," M. T. Anderson's second volume in the series, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, is an intense, highly personal novel. It provides the reader with a very different perspective on the American Revolution and its meaning to various groups of the citizenry.

Continuing the story of Octavian Nothing, following his escape from The Novanglian College of Lucidity, the book begins as he, along with his tutor Dr. Trefusis, seeks safety in Boston. With the city under siege, Octavian decides to cast his lot with the British who promise freedom to rebel-owned slaves joining the King's forces. However, as the Revolutionary War progresses, Octavian begins to realize that his sheltered upbringing is of little use in the midst of the struggle. Although a slave and the subject of the Novanglian College of Lucidity's experimentation, he was raised as an educated dilettante. Thus, Octavian possesses few practical skills and grows to appreciate the clever, sometimes cunning, talents that his fellow soldiers exhibit. It is during this maturing process that he begins to recognize the British promise of freedom is illusory and that he has traded one type of enslavement for another.

The novel is written as a combination of first person narrative interspersed with Octavian's journal entries; these present his view of the Revolutionary War and its import to the slaves who have chosen to side with the British. Additionally, there are excerpts from broadsides and correspondence written between British officers and between colonists which present differing perspectives on the war. M. T. Anderson's writing is complex and intelligent.
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