The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves

by M.T. Anderson

Volume Two of M. T. Anderson’s extraordinary narrative takes up where the previous... read more

Volume Two of M. T. Anderson’s extraordinary narrative takes up where the previous volume left off, with Octavian Nothing and his former teacher, Dr. Trefusis, escaping to Boston. But the Rebel troops soon have them fleeing again, this time south to Norfolk, Virginia, where Octavian joins the British army and Lord Dunmore, who promises freedom to all Black men joining what is known as the Ethiopian Regiment. Octavian and his regiment spend months aboard ship off the coast of Norfolk, waiting to take on the Rebels. Despite being reunited with several old friends, he finds that his classical education makes it hard to fit in with the other men of African descent. Still, Octavian is fascinated by the diversity of their histories and cultures, and by their stories of pain, suffering, and escape. Most of this story that offers readers a singular perspective on the Revolutionary War is told through Octavian’s journal entries, supplemented by letters from others who hold his fate in their hands. Written in the style of an eighteenth-century novel, Octavian’s thoughtful reports reveal his maturation from boy to man as he learns from first-hand experience rather than books. He becomes something of a philosopher, noting the hypocrisy of the Rebels’ fight for liberty as well as the self-serving pursuits of the British, who he eventually realizes have no intention of freeing the Black men who serve them. His observations are keen and heartbreaking. Each sentence in this masterful piece of writing is so carefully crafted that it will tempt rereading for the sheer joy of language. The characterizations, both primary and secondary, are superb. And, although this is historical fiction, it has much to say about our own times. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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