Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Airman by Eoin Colfer

Main Character: Conor Broekhart
Location: The Saltee Islands, off the coast of Ireland
Time period: the 1890s
Genre: YA Fiction, Adventure

This is a old-fashioned adventure story that brings to my mind elements of The Prisoner of Zenda and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Conor Broekhart leads a charmed life, starting with his unorthodox birth in a hot air balloon. His father is a high-ranking military officer and his mother is a scientist, both in the employ of Nicholas, the king of the Saltee Islands. The Saltees are a pair of small, barren rocks off the coast of Ireland that were originally given by England's King Henry II to one of his knights as a punishment for his overreaching ambition. It would have been punishment indeed if not for the discovery of a diamond mine under the smaller island.

Conor is raised in the castle and is playmate to the princess, Isabella. When King Nick arranges for the Frenchman, Victor Vigny, to be the royal tutor, he makes sure that Conor is taught by Victor as well. Victor and Conor bond over the dream of inventing a flying machine. But while the king's policies of making life on the Saltee Islands better for all citizens wins him love and acclaim among the populace, they also make a very dangerous enemy. The king is assassinated and Conor, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is framed. He is condemned to work in the diamond mines while his parents and Isabella are led to believe that he has died.

Conor is a reluctant hero--all he wants to do is escape the mines, go to America, and work on his inventions. He has no ambition to defeat the villain or rescue the princess or his parents--not knowing they've been told that he's dead, he thinks they have abandoned him. But when push comes to shove, he steps up and saves the day. (Was that a spoiler? But you knew he would!)

This is not a non-stop roller-coaster type adventure, such as Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series or the humorous Artemis Fowl books by Colfer, but it is a very enjoyable book.

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