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Publisher's Summary

"Such is our task, and such lies before us all: Liberty or Death."

In the summer of 1775, fleeing from 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, Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. But in the midst of war, no place is safe. The city of Boston itself is under siege. What follows is a tale of skirmish and flame, flight and fury, and battle on sea and land.

Seeking both the truth of his past and some hope for his future, Octavian encounters generous thieves, pious carpenters, delicate lords, noble cowherds, bedazzled scientists, and murderous rebels - as this astonishing narrative escalates to its startling climax.

©2008 M. T. Anderson; (P)2008 Listening Library

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  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 09-20-10

wonderful series, what YA fiction should be

A fine sequel to the excellent first part of the trilogy. In this book, the teenage Octavian flees into the rebel-besieged Boston, hoping to find safety and champions of liberty for slaves among the British forces. As before, Anderson writes eloquently and with delicious detail, drawing us into 18th century America and its stew of intellectuals, gentry, commoners, soldiers, slaves, and runaway slaves, framed from the fish-out-of-water perspective of a highly educated black boy from a uniquely sheltered background. Through Octavian, we experience a fascinating, little-known substory of the Revolutionary War, and feel his jubilation at the hope of an end to slavery, even while he's fighting for America's "redcoat" enemy. Of course, the reader already knows from history that this hope can only be dashed for him, yet the bittersweet tale of how it unfolds is a riveting one.


As in Book One, Anderson slyly pokes fun at his characters, but isn't afraid to raise adult topics (including some tactful but honest references to sex of various kinds), framing challenging questions in terms of contemporary philosophy, religion, or science. What is freedom and what makes anyone entitled to it? What governs man's nature? What makes us like or different from one another? Is suffering caused by evil, or the mechanics of simple human indifference? These intellectual queries, blended expertly with the more visceral scenes in the book, give it a powerful resonance and re-readability. Though labeled as young adult fiction, this series shouldn't be overlooked by grown-up readers. Can't wait for the next one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful