Review

Review: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson

Genre: Historical fiction Age Level: YA Series: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing #2
Genre: Historical fiction
Age Level: YA
Series: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing #2

Volume II of the National Book Award Winner and NEW YORK TIMES bestseller — a stunning resolution to the epic tale that “fascinates, appalls,
condemns, and enthralls.”

Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore’s proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces. 

In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian’s experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

4.5/5

“How do we change – within moments, the whole form of our habits and dispositions may become alien to us, and we almost cannot remember what we were. ”

The Kingdom on the Waves is a hard read for numerous reasons and took me a long time to read, but was 100% worth it. The fist book in this two part series, The Pox Party, can be easily counted among my favourite books and second part did not let me down.

If you told me this book was real I would have no trouble believing it. Everything from the writing to the details feel solidly grounded in history. The novel is comprised of Octavian’s journal, his itinerarium and letters from key figures in the war. Everything feels genuine and real. The book provides an interesting angle on the war as it approaches the topic not from a historical POV but an emotional one. It does not simply dish out facts and figures but really shows what it was like to live in the time period.

The writing is perfect and I love all the quirks of 18th century speech. I smile every time I see words like ‘thee’ or ‘thou’ or ’twas’ and am infinitely obsessed with the formalities of conversation.

This novel is a historical epic. Octavian is no longer the prince of the College whose biggest hardship was having to do some work around the house and not be allowed to learn. He is a soldier, one of many taking refuge with Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment. All Blacks who joined his troops were promised freedom, so numerous slaves fled their masters in the hope of reaching safety and fighting equality. Not all made it and many were recaptured, but the few that made it thought that that would be the end of their suffering. It is ironic that the rebels called themselves Sons of Liberty when they believed in slavery. Even Lord Dunmore himself just wanted them for strength in numbers and cared naught for their safety and well being.

The Kingdom on the Waves depicts the racism and horrible conditions slaves faced. Octavian records the stories of his friends who suffered far too greatly. Plantations were truly the equivalent of hell, and the way Blacks were treated was disgusting. Some were better off, but overall it was truly horrid.

The book was a little boring at times, thought I hesitate to call it that. It truly gives you a window into the life of a soldier which involves a lot of waiting and repetitive actions. Most of the time, they stay on the boat doing nothing apart from the occasional raid for food. There were a few battle scenes, all of them tragic no matter whether they won or lost. Also of note is the small pox that spread on the vessel. The book does not take one side or another, but puts both sides under scrutiny. Soldiers are soldiers and the people in charge want to win at any cost. What neither side did can be called humane and it was interesting to see what one side thought of the other,

It also also a story of Oactavian’s coming of age. At the beginning of the book he still does not truly comprehend what others have gone through. He is caught up in his own problems and, how youth often do, thinks of himself as the center of the universe. By the end however, he has gained a lot more emotional maturity having seen the horrors of the world. He experience both love and loss in equal parts. He discovers the truth about his mother and in doing so realizes that barely knows anything about her. It is hard to believe Octavian is only a teenager for his knowledge and philosophical opinions makes him seem a lot older. It is also hard for me to imagine myself in his situation, and it is much easier to think of him as someone older. But the truth is, Octavian is young, and there were those who were younger than him in much worse situations.

This book is terribly sad, though there are some happier, funny moments. I would hate to see the death toll from the story because a very scary number of people die.There is one part in particular near the end that brought me close to tears. The novel however end on a happy, hopeful note and am extremely satisfied with the conclusion. This duology is a must read for fans of historical fiction.

“There is no virtue in concealment. When the earth is rendered chaos, regulations of speech and propriety are rendered impotent, just as city may become desolate, and street, battle ground, and flesh may become fire.”

“Because we ain’t anything more than a name and some likes and some distates and a story we tell about ourselves.”

“It does not take long to die, nor to kill. A life is present or absent, and it is an instant passed between those extremities.”

 oct 3

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!

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