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The Kingdom on the Waves (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation #2)

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  2,626 ratings  ·  391 reviews
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, th
Hardcover, 561 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Candlewick Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I liked the first book very much. The story, the characters, the idea--everything about it-- are unique. But the prose, so welcome and so unusual in the first volume, wore me down within the first 50 pages of Vol. 2. This was an absolute struggle to get through. I am glad it's over.
Most historical fiction books for young people take as their object to show a Typical Person with a Typical Problem in a particular era; and most historical fiction for young people reflects a sort of bland consensus view of history, something that is acceptable to teach in schools.

Octavian Nothing is not most historical fiction.

Picking up where the first book left off, Octavian -- a slave raised in luxury with a first-rate education as part of an experiment -- enlists with the Royal Ethiopian
Bobby Simic
I give this one 5 stars for its ambition, authenticity and for its ability to take the reader back to the Revolutionary War. But as an enjoyable read, only 3.

I loved the first one and didn't really have a problem getting through it despite its language, but this one almost became a burden. I read the first one over a weekend. This one took me two months.

I think my problem was that the story felt more standard than the first book, which was such a unique reading experience for me. This is a "war
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. Sequels...always a little less exciting.
Ellen Halliday
I wanted to love this one as much as vol. 1, and almost did. But by the end of the book I almost felt as though the author was going to pounce into my room and hit me over the head with the book screaming "Don't you get it? Don't you get it?"
The action of Volume I: The Pox Party is summed up neatly in a broadside, allowing the plot of Volume II to stand on its own. The emotional content of this book, though, is probably better understood in light of the first book, but there's enough going on here to completely occupy the reader.

Octavian, as a character, is a fascinating outsider in the world he occupies. He has the education of a well-to-do white man, he was raised as an object of scientific inquiry, but he also witnessed his mothe
Although the writing was still amazing, the story seemed a little choppy. This was due to the small snippets from letters, diaries, and back stories of the different members of the Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment rather than the long sections of Octavian and Ev's narration in the first volume. Still, Anderson continues his magnificent weaving of the unknown bits of history into an exploration of the themes of liberty and freedom. Octavian's disillusionment with his country is sad and yet so underst ...more
Mar 16, 2009 Kathy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
I savored this book, reveling in the language. (I confess I read it with my ipod touch handy to look up words I didn't know - just as I did with dictionaries and The New Yorker as a child, and I learned a great deal about machines of warfare.)

This second part of Octavian Nothing's journey from slave to freed man takes him to Virginia Governor Dunmore's failed campaign against the rebels where an army of African-Americans, promised freedom, are holed up in ships and sent out in fruitless battles.
The conclusion of Octavian's tale is every bit as satisfying as the beginning -- it's like a stew, full of strong, hearty language and meaty chunks of characterization and... I'm going to drop this metaphor, for obvious reasons.
Anyway, there was some really great stuff about The Kingdom on the Waves -- I really enjoyed the tales of how some of the slaves ended up in the Ethiopian Regiment (and Octavian's chronicling thereof), and how Bono's levity sparkles throughout what is otherwise an extraor
Mar 14, 2014 Sarah marked it as did-not-finish-will-not-reread
26/11 - This isn't impressing me as much as the first book. The language, the exceedingly thick and fake-torn pages, the characters - none of it is drawing me in to the story like the first book. The novelty seems to have worn off. The second book is also quite a bit longer than the first and my first thought when I picked it up at the library was "Wow, that's a lot bigger than I expected!" That sounds dirty, but it's not meant to be and no matter what word I substitute for 'bigger' (still in th ...more
I have waited to read the conclusion for awhile -- thanks be to bronchitis for giving me the time.

I didn't find the second one to be quite as mesmerizing and fascinating as the first, but it was still solid, interesting, and harrowing. Octavian finally finds himself surrounded by others who are like him -- African -- and yet he is so unlike them that it is painful. Anderson pulls no punches in proclaiming Octavian to be lost between the Anglo world in which he was raised, before he ever knew th
This second volume does not fit in the same category as the first of the Octavian Nothing story. The gripping philosophical questions that M. T. Anderson raised in "The Pox Party" are not only left in limbo, but are also replaced by scenarios and rantings all too prevalent in most modern historical fiction. I understand that the past was not a rosy-hued age of perfection, but realism does not require bitter, acidic despondency either.

Warning: If the first volume was questionable as being suitab
I found this, the sequel to Anderson's award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party to be a little bit of a let-down. It's still an excellent book, but it's twice as long as the first volume and yet does not seem as eventful. Perhaps the issue is that it lacks much of the eerie confusion of the first novel; unlike in the beginning of The Pox Party, where one isn't even quite certain whether the book is historical or speculative fiction, t ...more
Darien Munden
Historical Fiction

How would you like to be part of a twisted social experiment? Where, to gauge the intelligence of your "race," you are raised under the tutelage of the most brilliant minds money can afford. But when the money necessary to pay for your tuition runs out, you are little more than slave trying to pay back the "debt" you owe your masters. Octavian Gitney is in exactly that situation. Raised from boyhood under the guidance and tutelage of the finest teachers his masters
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Cana Rensberger for

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
Lars Guthrie
Anderson is an astounding writer, a master of language and character development, so as I indicated in my review of Volume I, his self-proclaimed accolade is well deserved. This is an astonishing work, and Octavian's astonishing life is just one of several in this epic saga that takes place during the American Revolutionary War, the birth of science, and an earlier era of globalization. Categorizing "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing" as a young adult novel doesn't acknowledge the broad a ...more
Oleg Kagan
As compelling as Vol. 1 and for many of the same reasons, but the plot moves slower largely because it is set in thesame place for much of the book with the characters waiting for something to happen. This reminds me of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where aside from the beginning and the end, much of the book was actionless.

Still, I consider Vol. 1 and 2 of this book top-notch historical fiction for teens and adults alike.
As brilliant as the first volume, and as painful to read. You really have to give it to M.T. Anderson. To be able to write in that rich, almost Dickensian voice for 1500 pages (or whatever it was) is really impressive. Especially when you put it next to Feed and Whales on Stilts, which have equally interesting but totally different voices. Anderson's definitely a guy who really *loves* language.
Maggie Desmond-O'Brien
Put it this way - no amount of praise, ever, in a million years, could come close to doing this book justice. I mean, holy crap. It might not be a page-turner, per se, and I certainly had to keep my dictionary handy - I mean, how often do you find dialogue like "I can see that if we allow the slightest divagation on the subject of your charms, we shall never have time to hear the tale of your escape" in YA lit? - but wow, was it worth it.

I might have enjoyed this book even more than the first in
Morgan F
I have to admit that I was very reluctant to read this book. It's been on my to-read list since it came out, and I would repeatedly pass it by in the library. Eventually, it stared me down and I was forced to check it out. The reason I kept putting it off was because I didn't particularly enjoy the first one. Yes, I appreciated its artsiness, but it was very long and quite boring.

In this installment, we follow Octavian as he runs away once again, but this time with his tutor Dr. Trefusis. Inste
This is not a happy book. The tragedy is eloquent and slow building. It's almost enough to make you wish the redcoats had won. But in the end, neither side is that sympathetic from the perspective of the slaves.

The Revolutionary war tends to be romanticized, cast as a conflict of freedom versus tyranny. A war of rhetoric and patriots. Patrick Henry: "Give me Liberty or give me death." The federalist papers. George Washington crossing the Delaware. Minutemen militias and muskets.

All of that is tr
Phil Ford
The second and final volume of the horrific, touching, funny, and well told tale of Octavian Nothing. Octavian, who was bought as a slave (with his mother) and educated as an experiment in the first novel, is now on the lam more or less. As the first book dealt with some heavy issues, so does this one. This time around it's the idea of "freedom" during one of the most prominent events that addressed the idea on a historic scale : the American revolution. Ah, how the hypocrisy oozes from the page ...more
I think I got much more of the slavery vibe from this sequel. While the first book was a very good book, the slavery perspective really didn't completely come in to play until pretty late in the book. In this respect [slavery] the prequel was a sort of introduction or exposition - really quite essential in getting to know the main character and his past, which always has some figure into the man he is when grown up - to the grand theme, which was much more played upon in The Kingdom on the Waves ...more
April Helms
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I read this book without reading the first one (this was the only one in the series I could find at the library...), and I would recommend it very highly to ANYONE. The book is about a boy named Octavian who has just escaped from the college where he was raised by a committee of white scientists who were basically experimenting on him to see if a black child, raised in the right environment, could be as intelligent as a white chi
May 09, 2009 Melody rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in language, history, and the power of narrative
When I read the first volume of the Octavian Nothing series, I knew I'd read something extraordinary, but I didn't know what to do with it, and so I only mildly enjoyed it (as you'll notice from my rating). However, in the intervening years, Octavian's story, and M.T. Anderson's masterful use of narrative, language, and historical theory, got under my skin, and it became the contemporary book I used as a touchstone for excellence in fiction writing (not just Juvenile fiction writing) perhaps mor ...more
A huge fan of the first book, I found myself disappointed by the second volume. The first book was full of rich character exploration, but "Kingdom on the Waves" got bogged down in the tedium of historical description. I read to the end hoping all the descriptions of war and battles and smallpox would give lead to rewarding character resolutions, but the close of the second volume leaves the reader with not much reward for sticking it out. I'm still a huge MT Anderson fan and recommend the first ...more
Apr 15, 2015 Devinhawkins is currently reading it
Devin Hawkins
April 15, 2015

Octavian Nothing : The Kingdom of the Waves.

Whilst reading the series of Octavian Nothing I have been confused, perplexed and astonished, but I have grown to love it... even to a point where I can't stop reading the amazing story of Octavian. In the first novel : The Pox Party, Octavian finds out about the cruel experiment he and his mother partake in. When they move to the countryside to escape the anti-British, Mr.Gitney hosts a pox party trying to inculc
Essentially plotless with an ambiguous ending, yet the narrative is otherwise strong and satisfying, exploring (with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War as a backdrop) notions of freedom, loyalty, sacrifice and human nature. All executed with great tact; a fine compliment to the first novel. Surely will force readers to question the injustice as well as the good exhibited in contemporary society.

"...all things engaged in the devouring of each other--and I thought, never shall the woodland seem
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Matthew Tobin Anderson (M. T. Anderson), (1968- ) is an author, primarily of picture books for children and novels for young adults. Anderson lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

His picture books include Handel Who Knew What He Liked; Strange Mr. Satie; The Serpent Came to Gloucester; and Me, All Alone, at the End of the World. He has written such young adult books as Thirsty, Burger Wuss, Feed, The
More about M.T. Anderson...

Other Books in the Series

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation (2 books)
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party
Feed The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party Thirsty Whales on Stilts (Pals in Peril, #1) The Game of Sunken Places (Norumbegan Quartet, #1)

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“We all flee in hope of finding some ground of security” 19 likes
“In all things we become acclimated; this is our strength in wartime, and also our weakness. What is a principle, if it alter with circumstance?
But what is a man, if he cannot change to meet changed times?
And if he can change to meet changed times, is he a man, or several in succession?”
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