82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2008
I love the Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) series and Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, so I was exciting to pick up this book and delve into a story of adventure in the great blue yonder. What I didn't expect was how enraptured I would become by this book, especially after reading the first chapter that made me roll my eyes with its campiness.
Conor Broekhart was born to fly, or more accurately, he was born flying. From his legendary birth in a hot air balloon to his heroic feat saving the princess from a deadly fire by turning a flag into a parachute, Conor has always looked to the skies for inspiration. But when his tutor and king are both killed in a plot to take over the government, Conor spends the next two years in prison, thinking his father has turned his back on him and his beloved princess blames him for her father's death.
After nearly loosing himself in the inhumane conditions of the prison mines, Conor finds escape drawing designs for flying machines on his cell walls. His plans finally take flight ex machina in the form of a balloon that carries him to safety. He must then decide if he will turn his back on those who abandoned him or stand against the evils that threaten the freedom of his nation.
It was like reading The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics),The Princess Bride: S Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure and an H.G. Wells novel all in one. It had all of the elements of a great adventure novel in a very contemporary writing style. It made me laugh, it broke my heart, and it left me wanting more. I absolutely adore this book and hope that Colfer continues to write adventure novels.
This book is for a slightly older audience than Colfer's usual readers because of its complex themes and sometimes violent overtones, but it is still an appropriate book for advanced middle grade readers, high school students or adventurers of any age.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This was one of those books I saw sitting on my boss's bookshelf that made me think, "Maybe I should read that." Yet it wasn't until multiple people told me in person and repeatedly how good it was that I caved. And it really is good, gentle reader. It puts the buckle in swashbuckling. The play in swordplay. The terror in terrific. It's a good old-fashioned tale of thwarted romance, betrayal, great heroism, murder, diamonds, villains, kings, Americans, thugs, and a boy with the unusual inclination to fly.
The thing to know about Conor Broekhart, before all the nastiness occurred, was that he was born in the sky. A hot air balloon, if you wanted me to be more precise. A falling, soon-to-be-crushed, death trap of a balloon, to be even closer to the mark. Of course Conor didn't die, and as a result his family returned to their home on the Saltee Islands (just off the coast of Ireland) with a new baby to introduce to the King. Conor's father was the king's right hand man, and because they were so close the boy grew up running around the castle with his best friend, the princess. But that was before the king was murdered. Before Conor was thrown into jail on the Little Saltee island (think Alcatraz, but with less charm). Before the boy discovered how to survive in his new, harsh, surroundings and find a way out of his predicament. And now the princess and his family are in mortal peril, unless Conor can truly crack the riddle of how to construct a machine that will fly.
Is it fantasy? No more than any historical novel where the hero indulges in science. Is it science fiction? Only if you consider the notion of one man discovering the use of propellers on his own fantastical. Is it steampunk? No. Stop being silly. No this is, odd as it may sound, fiction with spice. That's not really a category, so I don't know if you can call it anything but original. Frances Hardinge's Fly by Night suffered similar categorical problems. Her book seemed like a fantasy, but like this book it was merely an alternate history. Still, if lumping this puppy in with 500+ page fantasy tomes is the only way to get kids to read it, so be it. I've no objections on my end.
For all its 416 pages, the book feels very tight. Colfer keeps a firm hand on the reins of his plot, never indulging too far in one direction or another. The result is a story that flies by with hardly a gasp for breath. This isn't to say that the author doesn't indulge in a small aside once in a while. He does, but they're always very quick and funny. For example, when the castle tower is on fire and King Nicholas must escape from his royal bathroom the text reads, "There was a window, of course. Nicholas was a great believer in the benefits of good ventilation. He was a devotee of meditation, too; but this was hardly the time for it."
There are also copious details that give the book just enough heft to keep it from feeling too frivolous. They tend to be little things. The scrape of the bolt on prison doors is described as "Top C", with the side note, "Social diarists record that survivors of Little Saltee often suffered from insomnia unless their bedchamber doors were fitted with rusted bolts." There are references to Napoleon's stay at Little Saltee (apparently he fared poorly). I liked the little mites that eat away the disease and filth from new prisoners. And Conor's method of writing down his schematics is probably the closest this book comes to science fiction, without ever really treading fully down that path.
Kids looking for excitement will find it from page one onward. And yet, for all its death-defying escapades, Colfer is very careful to cover his bases. He doesn't get sloppy on the details. By the end of the book the reasons why Conor wasn't killed at the same time as Nicholas and why the princess is left living are explained perfectly without so much as a glint of a gap in sight. Kids will enjoy the book because the characters are great and the story is fun. Adults will enjoy it because it won't require extraordinary suspensions of disbelief. Plus the fact that this is a stand-alone novel that does not lend itself naturally to sequels or a series is like a palate cleanser in this sequel-addled age with live in.
Colfer shows himself to be a skillful writer by his interesting choices. Under normal circumstances, when the hero in a story has a plan and doesn't let the reader in on it, usually that plan goes off without a hitch. It doesn't look as if Colfer understood that concept, though, and the book is stronger for it. He also must have never heard the rule that the more often the hero is knocked unconscious, the worse the book is. Conor gets his own fair share of blows to the head, but the author always plays fair and never uses that as an excuse to fudge details or bridge insurmountable distances. Well played.
I also had great respect for Colfer when he saw to it that his hero never became a murderer. Our heroes in movies and books like killing henchmen. The idea that an action packed storyline requires that your protagonist have blood on his hands is a complex issue, too easily skirted around. Colfer isn't afraid to face the problem head-on, though, making it perfectly clear that the "kill or be killed" mode of thought only means that under the right circumstances it is the people without the proper intelligence or imagination who are the ones who descend into becoming killers.
And on a personal note, I was happy to see that the Yanks in this book come off looking pretty good. Good King Nicholas, the forward thinking monarch on the Saltee throne, is an American. Linus Wynter, the kind blind prisoner who helps Conor survive prison, is also an American. We haven't looked this good on paper since Lee Scoresby first showed his face in The Golden Compass.
Some people say the book is The Count of Monte Cristo. Others argue that it feels more like The Man in the Iron Mask. With such esteemed comparisons, it shouldn't hurt matters any to also note that it also happens to be consistently interesting, smart, exciting, and fun. The finest book Eoin Colfer has ever written, and hopefully the start of more stories like this to come. Everyone should read it.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
As a reader of many young adult novels, I was never able to get into the author's Artemis Fowl series although I know they are popular. However, I have to give high praise, two thumbs up and five stars to this fabulous and unique adventure story for boys and men of all ages. This a wonderful coming-of-age story of a young man with a scientific mind and a dream of being the first man to fly. Trained in science, fencing, martial arts, and raised with a high education, our young hero Conn, while saving his princess damsel from death, soon is betrayed and framed for murder and sent to prison where there he plots escape and spends years inventing his future dream machine. Great characters of good and bad, high action and adventure, a little romance, and lots of cool flying. This is truly outstanding and a pleasant change of pace from the author's other styles of writing.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Eoin Colfer attained international recognition with his splendid series of novels about a twelve year old genius thief named Artemis Fowl. The sixth book is coming out later this year. Those books are full of fun and fantasy, with laughs coming as quickly as danger.
However, Colfer has outdone himself with his latest novel. Just released, AIRMAN literally soars the heights of grand adventure. Although the book is listed in the children's section, adults will be able to curl up with this one and remember a childhood filled with wronged heroes who have to fight their ways back from incredible losses to battle the evil villains.
The pacing and characters in this book are different from those in the Fowl books and Colfer's other novels. Conor Broekhart is the kid and the hero I wanted to be when I was just discovering adventurous fiction (and part of me would still like to be even now). He's strong, courageous, intelligent, and a trained swordsman. Everything a dashing hero needs to be.
Usually novels like this end up with the hero saving the princess and earning her undying love. Colfer starts out with Conor doing that. That left me wondering what was next.
Well, what was next took a page from Alexander Dumas's THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and blended it into the fabric of Conor's story in a way that kept me hurriedly turning pages. Raised in the Saltee Islands, Greater and Lesser, Conor was the son of King Nicholas's most trusted captain, Declan Broekhart.
The islands are fictitious, but Colfer builds them with splendid fascination. Originally an insult, the islands were granted to the original king and granted their independence. The one of the world's largest diamond mines were discovered there. Overnight, the Saltee Islands became a world player.
The time is the late 19th century and airplanes haven't been invented yet, though they've been dreamed about. Conor and his mentor, Victor, spend their days together designing airplanes, hoping to build the one that will actually fly.
I loved Conor's relationship with his parents as well as his mentor. It made me remember so many other good books of derring-do I'd read as a kid. Victor trains Conor as a swordsman, martial artist, and scientist, and Conor naturally excels at all those things - exactly as a hero cut from this cloth is supposed to do.
But when the villainous Marshall Bonvilain kills the king and Conor's mentor, Conor witnesses everything. Unable to kill Conor because it would give his plot away, the Marshall develops an insidious plan for getting rid of him.
The twists and turns of the Marshall's plot don't get revealed for some time, but I couldn't believe how things turned out for Conor. Not only was he consigned to the diamond mines, where most men died while digging, but no one - not even his family or the princess who loved him - tried to help him.
I hung on every adventure Conor had while in prison. His struggles against Malarkey, the man the Marshall had hired to thrash him every day for weeks, as well as the Battering Rams, the gang that ran the prisoners, all had me flipping pages in an effort to find some hope for him.
The writing is great and feels like a narrative, to a degree, from those classic novels of adventure. There's just enough worldly scope and bouncing around the various characters to reveal everything else that's going on to make everything feel more real and interesting.
The details of the flying machines Colfer talks about and designs are magnificent, based in fact but extrapolated to push the story into the fantastic. I loved Conor's hideout. The wind tunnel felt like some kind of Batcave and I got to ride along as he ventured forth.
The way he was stymied from simply returning to his family was extremely well done and logical to boot. No matter which course Conor tried to take, fate and Bonvilain wouldn't let him escape. I haven't read a novel where a kids' hero was so severely trounced in a long time. Usually kids have problems in these books, but the odds against Conor's happiness just kept stacking up against them.
Although this book is slightly over 400 pages, it's the perfect took to read aloud to kids. Or to give to reluctant readers, especially boys. Colfer has delivered a story that reaches back to entertainment and heroes that have been around hundreds of years, and he's made it all new again.
Hopefully the Airman will soar again. I'd love to see Conor up against another worthy foe and have to struggle to overcome insurmountable odds - again!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2008
Eoin Colfer is one of my favorite authors when it comes to children's books (make that young adult books) and I love the Artemis Fowl series and Half Moon Investigations. Airman was obviously and instant buy for me no matter what it was about. There's no magic or goblins in this one but there is a lot of fun and invention to be had with an alternate Irish history.
The books takes place in the Saltee Islands, which are actually part of Ireland, but are a separate country in book thanks to independence gained through a diamond mine fortune. The islands are a beacon of modern technology (the book is set in the 1880s) thanks to a benevolent king, a genius scientist and imaginative child named Conor. But when an evil Royal Guard assassinates the king he sets up Conor to take the fall and spend the rest of his life on the island's hellhole prison.
From this point on, the book takes a sort of Count of Monte Cristo twist with Conor assuming a new identity, learning all he can about being a formidable good guy and planning an elaborate escape through the use of manned flight.
It's very fasted-paced and you'll be unable to put the book down. Colfer's love of the Irish countryside and history is obvious once again, I can just imagine him out for a stroll deciding to use some enchanting little place he has discovered. The door is left open for a sequel of sorts, but I think it's just more of a deliberately ambiguous ending since tying up all loose ends would involve too much exposition. My second favorite non-Artemis Fowl book next to Half Moon Investigations.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2008
I am a big fan of Colfer (author of Artemis Fowl series), and I originally picked up his new one because I'm trying to read everything aeronautical out there in YA and Mid-grade for my own piece of fiction.
...But now I think this is my favorite Colfer yet!
Colfer has described his Artemis Fowl books as Die Hard with fairies. If that's the case, then this is Count of Monte Cristo with aircrafts. He takes Dumas, Wells, and Verne by the throat and adds his own witty, resonant voice beautifully. The book starts off with mostly setting and background, but once the action starts, it doesn't let up, leaving YA readers with a bit of fun, history, science, literature, and heart.
In 1878 Conor Broekhart was born in the sky, and since then, all he can think about is returning. A natural genius, his only playmate on the sovereign Greater Saltee Islands (off the coast of Ireland) is the fiery Princess Isabella. The two become embroiled in a political plot when the king and their tutor are assassinated and Conor is framed. He's sent to the Little Saltee Island prison, a work camp for diamond mining. Conor meets an old, blind American musician who teaches him the only way to survive the misery of the place is to forget his old life and focus on his one passion left to him: inventing flying machines.
Colfer deftly changes point of views, and seamlessly provides narrative without slowing his well-known action and understanding of science and technology. Clever names, clever plot, and deliciously crafted words. My only criticism is that the resolution seemed a bit abrupt, especially in the end where Colfer doesn't resolve the tension he had built up so well between Conor and his father. But on the whole, I spent most of my time thinking, "I wish I could write a book this well!"
One part Count of Monte Cristo, another Around the World in Eighty Days and The War in the Air, and a fourth nothing like you've ever read. I would recommend this to any teen reader or adult who loves action, but I wouldn't recommend it for tweens, as it is an older audience than Artemis Fowl because of the length, language, and misery in the prison scenes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2008
If you are waiting for Eoin's next Artemis Fowl book to come out, pick up Airman. It is a well-written novel for young adults, or the young at heart. The novel comes across as a different version of the "Count of Monte Cristo" tale, but with a bit more wonder and, I think, a better ending. In the tradition of Artemis Fowl, our young hero in Airman gets more than he bargains for in a few situations, but all turns out well as he keeps his promises, and in the end, gets the girl.
I would definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of Artemis Fowl, the Inheritance (Eragon) trilogy, the Septimus Heap series, Harry Potter, and other excellent books in this realm. I am an adult who enjoys young adult fiction of this sort and it only took me a day to read Airman, which is not to say it is a short read, but that it held my attention and kept me wanting to read it.
Hurrah for Eoin Colfer!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2008
Like the wonderful Artemis Fowl series, and several other recent books for young readers, "Airman" is about a clever 14-year-old Irish boy. I anticipated that Eoin Colfer would be capitalizing on his successes by creating another similar character and story. However, this is a far more complicated and layered book, and when I was halfway through it I decided that it was already one of my all-time favorite reads. I am an adult reader who enjoys many "children's books" and I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about young adventurers. Don't read the lengthy reviews that detail the entire story line -- just read this book and enjoy it as it unfolds.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2014
Airman is a very special book to me. I read it a few times when I was younger and I thought it was high time for a re-read. I'm so glad to find it even better than I remembered. As much as I love Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series, I have to say that I think Airman is his best work so far (of the books I have read by him). It's simply a beautiful story. I'd forgotten how beautiful it really was. It also has a lot of adventure, a budding romance that I adored and some the most unique characters I have ever read about.
I am not kidding, this book has the best set of characters ever. How could someone forget about characters like the Victor 'La Brosse' Vigny, King Nicholas, Linus Wynter, Princess/Queen Isabella or Conor Broekhart himself and his parents, Declan and Catherine? Even little Sean Broekhart! They were all amazing. And as per usual with Eoin Colfer, we get a despicable villain who is just loathsome. Together with the story devided in three parts: Broekhart - Finn - Airman, it's just all part of Eoin Colfer's genius. I loved this book before but I love it even more now after re-reading it.
I also have to say that I had a lot of emotional moments with this book. Conor goes through a whole lot of crap, going to prison because of that bastard Bonvilain and some parts really did bring tears to my eyes. So this book has been a rollercoaster of emotions but it was totally worth it. I was also rather giddy when Otto Malarkey came into the picture because he's also in The Reluctant Assassin. I just love Eoin Colfer for that. That and his totally amazing and awesome writing!
So what else can I say but that I love Airman? I've always thought Artemis Fowl was by favorite book by him but I think I'll have to put Airman in that place now because... simply wow! Mr. Colfer has once again left me awe-struck with his amazing book, Airman!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
After having read several of the Artemis Fowl books, and The Wish List, I decided to dig deeper into Eoin Colfer's works. That's where I came across Airman, a standalone novel, published in 2008.
In the 19th century (1890s), a ten year old boy named Conor Broekhart is a resident of the Saltee islands (a real place off the Irish coast). A close friend of the young princess, Conor finds himself saving her from a burning building.
Having been knighted and regarded as a hero, Conor trains under a Frenchman named Victor Vigny. For the next four years he learns how to become a brilliant scientist and a great swordsmen.
Unfortunately for Conor, he draws the attention of Marshall Bonvilain. A man who kills the king and frames Conor's mentor, Victor for the crime---after having killed him too. Bonvilain ships Conor off to the prison island of Little Saltee, while deceiving Conor's parents into thinking that he was killed protecting the king, and Conor into falsely believing that his parents disowned him because they thought he was involved with the king's death. Conor spends the next three years living with a new identity and seeking a way to free himself of his terrible fate.
I thought that the narrator voice was a little heavy in the beginning, but after awhile the story picked up and grabbed my attention. By the end I was anxiously anticipating the outcome. Good read. With a title like Airman, I figured I was going to read a story about a flying boy. Well, there is some of that, but the book closer resembles The Count of Monte Cristo. Prison stories of misunderstanding and identity swamping just never get old.
Things to consider:
Overall, this tale contained no inappropriate content. There's a few scenes of violence, but nothing that doesn't fit into the mold of this type of story. No sexual situations or harsh use of language. I recommend for pre-teen and older. Both girls and boys, though, perhaps, slightly more toward boys.
James D. Maxon
Author of Traphis: A Wizard's Tale