Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey (Putnam, May 29, 2012, middle grade) is an intriguing and entertaining adventure set in a piratical, alternate colonial-historical world (vaguely reminiscent of Joan Aiken).
13 year old Egbert Masterson has lived a somewhat sheltered life--not the nice sort of cozy shelter where one is protected from unpleasantness. Life for Egg consists of the sort of isolation from the world that happens when you are the youngest child of the only ugly fruit plantation owner on isolated Deadweather Island (which has nothing to recommend it), your older brother and sister are thugs who hate your guts, your father has no time for you (except to whack you to encourage you to work harder), and your tutor is a nasty and incompetent lout with no learning. Yet despite everything, Egg is not entirely miserable--one of the ex-pirates who work on the plantation is not unfriendly, and some comfort can be found in the few books available to him.
But then the borders of Egg's world expand with a vengeance when his father takes his children on a trip to fabulously wealthy Sunrise Island. Soon after their arrival, he disappears with the two older siblings in a freak accident. And Egg begins to realize that there are Sinister Machinations afoot, involving a lost treasure of the indigenous people of the islands and greedy colonialist exploitation. There are attempts on Egg's life, and there was a huge secret his father hadn't shared. And there are lots of pirates, regular marauding ones on boats as well as the field pirates of Deadweather.
And perhaps most importantly, there's Millicent, the plucky daughter of privilege who must cast off the shackles of her sheltered upbringing (the comfy kind of sheltered) and reconfigure her own perceptions of the world if Egg is to survive....
Like I said up at the top, it reminded me more than a bit of Joan Aiken, especially her later books--almost over the top alternate history, with tons of adventure and bizarre characters and situations and plottings. It's not a book that's exactly to my own personal taste (I don't actually like pirates. Sorry. And exciting non-stop adventure is fun, but not my truly favorite type of story). But it is still a diverting read that I recommend enthusiastically to those who do like piratical adventure! If you like the look of the cover, you will like the book.
And despite my personal preferences, I was quite curious about the mystery, and happy to cheer Egg on as he a. tries to stay alive b. dreams of one day marrying Millicent c. figures out what the heck is happening. Egg is an engaging young hero (anyone who loves reading as much as he does is, of course, a sympathetic character) and it's especially interesting to see Millicent coming into her own. I also appreciated the fact that the book deals with colonialism (a bit off center stage in this one, but the next book seems to promise to involve the native inhabitents of the region more immediatly, and to give them greater agency). It's an alternate world, but the parrallels are clear.
The book ends at a good stopping place--but Millicent and Egg are clearly about to embark on a new phase of their adventures. I'll be looking forward to it.
Here's an interview with Geoff Rodkey at Educating Alice.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher