I read Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation The Pox Party several years back and I thought I’d finally give it’s ending a go. But PHEW, The Kingdom on the Waves is not a joke. I give mad props to Anderson for researching American history as much as he did, even the language he got spot on. But damn. I have a MUCH higher than average vocabulary and even I found myself reaching for the dictionary every few pages. The fact that this book was written for teenagers is kind of staggering.
It follows the adventures of well-educated mulatto Octavian after his and his tutor’s escape from the College of Lucidity–where he previously learned they had educated him and studied him only to determine if Negros were an equal race to whites. Dr. Trefusis and himself stumble into British-occupied Boston during the Revolutionary War and must quickly take sides. They decide to get on board with Lord Dunmore, who promises freedom to any black man who joins his counter-revolutionary army.
Too bad Lord Dunmore’s offer isn’t as great as it seems. A dirty politician?? Who would’ve guessed it?!
Parts of TKOTW read as Octavian’s personal diary and his experiences with the war. He also learns some new information about his late mother. The other part is predominately letters from politicians and generals trying to bring the war to some conclusion. Meanwhile, Octavian is reduced to laboring and killing and watching his friends be cut down beside him. Nasty stuff.
I think Anderson gets 5 out of 5 stars for research and linguistic accuracy, but for readability… not so much. The book wasn’t as boring as it was difficult and too wordy in many places. Sometimes I caught myself reading aloud to piece together what they were talking about. I get that this demonstrated the supreme intelligence of Octavian and his tutor, but come on!
If you’re writing a book for youngsters, make it a little more digestible, will ya?
3 musket balls of 5
(See? Cairo even found it tiresome!)