I already know what you’re going to say: “Jen! Why do you post about books that aren’t coming out for MONTHS, knowing full well I won’t be able to get my hot little hands on them anytime in the near future?” I know, I feel your pain and I apologize, but I just couldn’t wait to share my joy after reading the sequel to Octavian Nothing, the most amazing historical fiction ever. I was gifted with an early review copy and promptly sped through the 500+ pages in just a few days, dying to know what became of the experimental slave man-child raised by 18th century philosophers who used him as an example to prove that an African slave had all the same intellect and reason as a European man. After escaping his captors with the help of his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, at the end of the first book, now Octavian and the good doctor find themselves trapped in the besieged city of Boston, where resources are scarce and the rebels await just outside the city’s fortifications. Then Octavian hears that Lord Dunmore, the exiled Tory governor of Virginia, has issued a proclamation that promises freedom to all slaves who will join with his troops against the rebels. So Dr. Trefusis and Octavian travel to Norfolk, Virginia, where Octavian joins the Royal Ethiopian Regiment, in service to the King of England. But Octavian has a hard time fitting in with the rest of his escaped colleagues, as his exquisite manners and proper speech make him seem fussy and prim. In addition, the REG seems to spend more time sitting around and waiting in the hold of a stinky ship as they do actually fighting their former slave masters. Soon Octavian begins to wonder, “Rebel or Redcoat, were there none who needed to use us sufficiently to save us?” Beautifully written in the vernacular of the 18th century, this throughly researched sequel both stands alone and also answers all the questions readers had at the end of the first volume of Octavian’s unusual history. The action is fierce, the philosophy thought-provoking, and the characterizations complex and compelling. The incomparable M.T. Anderson poses questions about the meaning of liberty and the relativity of loyalty in the midst of war, while making connections between the American Revolution and the society we live in today. While they are in no way easy or quick reads, if you are a student of history or life, it would be well worth your while to read both volumes of the Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson