To the Manor Born

Fiction - Southern
337 Pages
Reviewed on 10/01/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

To the Manor Born by Matthew Speiser is a contemporary speculative fiction novel beginning in Virginia at Rosewood Manor, where Atticus Brooke, an indentured slave in the Confederate States of America, toils alongside other “indents” under their owner, Confederate General Franklin Brooke. Facing the imminent sale of his labor to a Deep South plantation, Atticus plans his escape, discovering that secret meetings of other indents, including fellow Manor indent Clara, plan an uprising against the nobles and Confederate Guard agents. Meanwhile, Liza, Brooke's daughter, meets Dale, a Confederate Guard member supporting the resistance, raising questions about her allegiances and her promise to another. Atticus seeks support from sympathizers and the Underground Railroad as a runaway heading north, while the fate of the Confederacy rests on the extreme measures the slave-owning population is willing to take as conscription and rebellion escalate

To the Manor Born is an excellent dystopian novel with a full cast of diverse characters and a world built by Matthew Speiser that is completely immersive and terrifying. I loved the modern systems in place to control indentured slaves with a mix of old-world depravity. Slave hunters operate with the benefit of surveillance chips surgically implanted in some indentured servants' ankles, drones, and pervasive surveillance amidst green energy and sophisticated technology. Speiser explores the complexity of human emotions and ethical decisions through action and organic dialogue. Love and sacrifice are intrinsically linked, whether it is between characters like Atticus and Clara or Liza and her parents. In a testament to Speiser's skill as a writer, he is miraculously able to make Franklin someone we hope to see change because he is—and this is difficult to admit—a person we feel like we know and want to turn the page on because we could actually like him under different circumstances. Overall, To the Manor Born is intelligent, insightful, and engrossing in its entirety, and I have no doubt others will enjoy it just as much. Very highly recommended.