Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Deadweather and Sunrise

Deadweather and Sunrise
by Geoff Rodkey
Recommended Ages: 12+

Egbert is the youngest child of an ugly fruit farmer named Hock Masterson. I mean he farms ugly fruit, not that the farmer is ugly – though he isn't very nice to his thirdborn child. Also, his rough and tough older siblings, incongruously named Adonis and Venus, hate his guts and treat him accordingly. Here's a hint as to why this may be: on Egg's 13th birthday, which also happens to be the 13th anniversary (need I say more?) they all travel from the sweltering, remote, pirate-infested island of Deadweather where they have lived all Egg's life to the nearby, much richer isle of Sunrise. Hock seems to have made a discovery, about which he feels it necessary to consult a lawyer. Unfortunately, the lawyer betrays him, and the richest and powerfulest man on the island arranges a ridiculous hot air balloon accident to wipe out the whole family, which only Egg survives. Then the rich guy, let's call him Roger Pembroke, tries to adopt Egg, but that doesn't work either. Also, Egg and Pembroke's beautiful daughter fall in love with each other. So, apparently seeing no other solution to his problems, Pembroke orders one of his stooges to throw Egg off a cliff. But that doesn't work either.

Egg, naturally, goes on the run. I mean, people are trying to kill him, right? Also, he's suspected of murder, because the aforementioned stooge plunged off the cliff instead of him. But things could get worse. For example, Egg gets caught stowing away on a luxury liner (tourism has just been invented in his world). The cruise director makes him up to look like a pirate and sentences him to flogging and marooning, just to keep the passengers entertained. Then pirates attack and take over the cruise ship. Suspecting Egg of belonging a pirate, they pit him in fight to the death against a scrawny, feral, one-handed kid named Guts, who could be a great friend if he weren't completely insane. Then the ship blows up and Egg and Guts get marooned after all. Then...

Look. Just trust me. It could get worse, and it does. Egg has many adventures to survive before he can even think about taking back his family's plantation, claiming the mysterious treasure buried on it and reuniting with the lovely but strong-willed Millicent. And then, he just has to survive an assault by a regiment of soldiers, led by Millicent's father, with only the dubious loyalty of a group of maimed and crippled pirates in his favor. Everyone tells him his only chance of survival is killing Roger Pembroke, but if he does that, he'll lose Millicent. It's quite a dilemma for a 13-year-old kid whose only advantages over his dead siblings, besides not being dead so far, is that he has read 137 books and has an admirable character, including a longstanding familiarity with adversity.

This book is the first installment of the Chronicles of Egg, which continue in New Lands and Blue Sea Burning. It's a good, solid book that opens up a remarkable fantasy world, where the map is different but a lot of other things are very much the same as an 18th- or 19th-century version of our world. It provides swashbuckling, cliffhanging entertainment with a generous splash of humor and a pinch of youthful romance. Mixed together, it's like an athletic workout that you can enjoy without leaving your reading nest. Geoff Rodkey, whose bio blurb claims that someone briefly wanted to kill him when he was a teenager, is also the author of four Tapper Twins books and the novels Stuck in the Stone Age and We're Not from Here.

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