So let’s see. It is easy to see a certain kind of formula that came about over the last decade or so involving male Cinderellas. You’ve got Harry Potter with those nasty Dursleys making him live under the stairs. There’s Percy Jackson with his dyslexia. Both, of course, have sidekicks with whom they banter and battle highly dangerous foe. The result of Harry and Percy’s success among young readers has generated a whole lot of heroes of their ilk. Now there are plenty of young guys treated badly who find out they are special and, of course, have sidekicks and some sort of maybe- first-love interest (who may or not be a sidekick). Most of these are entertaining and immediately after reading, forgettable. So my initial response when I received Geoff Rodkey’s Deadweather and Sunrise, the first in The Chronicles of Egg, was a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Chronicles? Pirates? A boy and a girl on the cover? Yawn.
But, but, but then I began reading and was immediately and completely hooked. Rodkey has created a witty and intriguing alternate world, one that is filled with pirates and feels along the lines of 18th and 19th century British Empire or something of that ilk. His male Cinderella is one Egbert, who understandably prefers the nickname Egg. He lives on the putrid outlier island of Deadwater which is largely populated by pirates. “There were two kinds on Deadwater: the normal ones who hung around down in Port Scratch, drinking and getting into knife fights whenever they weren’t off raiding Cartager gold ships; and the busted-down, broken ones,who’d lost too many limbs or eyes or organs to crew a ship, but not enough to kill them outright.” It is the latter who work on his father’s ugly fruit plantation, seemingly the only legal enterprise on Deadwater. Tormented by his miserable older siblings Adonis and Venus (both of whom are nothing like their namesakes) and ignored by his taciturn and always-working father, Egbert’s life is that of the classic downtrodden male Cinderella. But suddenly everything changes. There’s a map, a girl, her villainous father, gruff and good pirates, nasty dangerous pirates, and something more sinister lurking in the wings that may involve the original people of the area, termed Natives, who we only see far, far off, toiling on the nearby island Sunrise’s silver mine.
Egg tells his own story with humor and a likable lack of self-pity. There is adventure galore as he goes from one cliffhanger (one is literally a cliffhanger) to the next and wit as well. For it is Rodkey’s writing that made this rise for me above the others of its type — a dry sense of humor, the sort of throw-away lines Dickens does so well, great pacing, and excellent world building. I can see that some might be worried about the mention of those mysterious Natives, but my sense and hope is that Rodkey is setting us readers up for something significant about them in future volumes. In this start to the series they are far-off figures Egg is only very vaguely informed about through hearsay and stories of the past related by various characters. That they are so barely known and then only as myth feels intentional on the author’s part and something I am hopeful he will bust open in good ways in future volumes.
Of course there is much more that we readers will be waiting for as well — what exactly did happen to Egg’s family after they went off? What and where is he headed next? Geoff Rodkey has definitely got my attention and I’m eager to see where he is going to take this chronicle next. Oddly enough, when searching for a link for the book I came across a review by none other than Rick Riordan who describes it as “Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean,with a sprinkling of Tom Sawyer for good measure.” Not too bad a description at all.