Anderson parcels out the essential details of this novel sparingly, letting the story evolve at a pace that, quite frankly, made me read faster so that I could see the next twist, the new piece of the puzzle that would tell me more about the unusual life of Octavian. Octavian, readers learn, is an African. His mother has been purchased and brought to the College as almost an item of curiosity. She and her son provide entertainment for the members of the college and their guests. However, when times get tough, the fortunes of Cassiopeia and her son change drastically. Ultimately, Octavian is sent forth into a world of turmoil where his skills of observation might prevent him from serious bodily harm.
This is not an easy work on so many levels. The language and the parsing of the story hearken back to a more archaic time. The unexpected turns and twists of the story require complete attention from the reader as well. However, for readers willing to come along, this is a fruitful journey as we follow Octavian from child to teen. The cruelties of the time period are brought home in a chillingly realistic manner; history has seldom been so riveting and so threatening.
I await reaction from younger readers now. Natalie had started reading the book and had to hand it over to me. I hope she will pick back up where she left off and let me know her thoughts.