G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.
hardcover, 296 pages.
It’s tough to be thirteen, especially when somebody’s trying to kill you.
Not that Egg’s life was ever easy, growing up on sweaty, pirate-infested Deadweather Island with no company except an incompetent tutor and a pair of unusually violent siblings who hate his guts.
But when Egg’s father hustles their family off on a mysterious errand to fabulously wealthy Sunrise Island, then disappears with the siblings in a freak accident, Egg finds himself a long-term guest at the mansion of the glamorous Pembroke family and their beautiful, sharp-tongued daughter Millicent. Finally, life seems perfect.
Until someone tries to throw him off a cliff.
Suddenly, Egg’s running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he’s been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.—jacket copy
When you read “debut author” you are ready to make some allowances, you needn’t with Geoff Rodkey. He has spun this juvenile fiction adventure story like a pro. He’s funny and earnest and has the pacing, villains, and gore well in hand. He is also able to throw in plenty of keep-you-on-your-toes plot twists that do not, wonderfully enough, feel like they come out of nowhere. He is convincing and consistent if you are willing to slow down long enough to admire the job; which is harder than it sounds.
Rodkey does take time with the beginning establishing Egbert’s unfortunate circumstances and giving the reader a feel for this fantasy culture. His wit is high energy, which works for this kind of adventure, and I see Rodkey eventually catching up with the likes of N.D. Wilson and Eoin Colfer. In the meantime, the pages sail by, even if one cringes to think ‘how is Egg going to get out of that one?’ Rodkey draws out some pretty good action sequences.
Melissa at The Book Nut captures the feel of the characters perfectly when she writes: “Think of it as Pirates of the Caribbean with a 13-year-old Will Turner. There’s a Jack Sparrow character in Egg’s friend Guts, and Millicent could be Elizabeth Swan.” Yeah, they are younger, blonder versions… It wasn’t something I hadn’t thought about while reading, having forgotten it since reading Melissa’s review, but they are very reminiscent. There are other characters, of course, some a bit more caricature-ish, but Rodkey uses it wisely, I think; illustrating where he needed so as to not bog down his read unnecessarily, certainly not at the expense of the pace. He maintains a successful balance of Egg’s inner dialog with the action, and not just balance in how Rodkey spends his time, but how he uses one to affect the other (and vice versa). Who Egg is affects his choices which affects the outcome, but he is also made to react or is placed due to the actions of another.
As Book One Deadweather and Sunrise could stand alone, but I can’t think why one would want it to. While Rodkey wraps up a few things, he’s laid out quite a bit more to entice the reader. The reader is going to like at least one character and are bound to be intrigued by at least one lure Rodkey has set for the next adventure. I am happy to say I am interested in the outcomes of more than a few characters and plot trajectories.
recommendations: ages 10 & up. boys or girls, avid reader or no, those who love adventure stories, pirates (maimed or otherwise), and/or first crushes. fans of N.D. Wilson and/or Rick Riordan.
of note: Rodkey writes boys and boats really well. and Guts is my favorite. I adore his rough language, blood-thirst, and the way he tells Millicent to shut-up…yeah, the bickering was great.
Here’s the link again for Melissa’s review. (If you read many middle-grade novels, you should think about following her blog if you do not already; although she does read outside of mg, too.)