Bestselling author Eoin Colfer has set much of this novel on Ireland's Saltee Islands. These rocky outcroppings off the coast of County Wexford are known today mainly as a haven for sea birds, so perhaps it's fitting that Colfer's tale of the late 19th century involves a young man's attempt to conquer the skies himself. Conor Broekhart's primitive flight experiments land not only himself but also his entire family in grave danger. An excellent adventure by the author of Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident, and the The Lost Colony.
Colfer's (Artemis Fowl) epic adventure story is winningly voiced by Keating, whose distinctive brogue transports listeners to the remote Saltee Islands, off the Irish coast. The narrative begins with hero Conor Broekhart's birth in a hot-air balloon over the 1878 Paris World Fair, showcasing Keating's talent with a French accent, too, as he smoothly slips into the role of Victor Vigny, the aeronautic enthusiast who later becomes Conor's beloved tutor in fencing, fighting and, most importantly, the science of flight. The story turns on Conor's clash with Hugo Bonvilain, the Machiavellian leader of the island kingdom's armed guard, and Keating's sneering characterization gives the villain real menace. Two Americans also feature in the story, and Keating's only bobble here is that these two voices occasionally sound a bit similar, but this is merely a quibble in an otherwise masterly reading of a gripping tale. Ages 10-up. Simultaneous release with the Hyperion hardcover(Reviews, Nov. 12, 2007). (Jan.)Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Young Conor Broekhart is a born scientist-curious and consumed with creating a flying machine. His life on the Saltee Islands in the early 1900s is idyllic. His father is well-connected with the royal family, his friendship with the princess is strong, and his tutor is both kind and knowledgeable. When the king is attacked, however, Conor's idyllic existence ends. Blamed for the crime and believed by his family to be dead, Conor is thrown into the torturous prison on the island of Little Saltee. He devises his plan for a flying machine while being forced to mine diamonds. There he must decide whether family and honor are more important than riches and fame. Colfer's newest novel will be enjoyed by many of his fans. An inventive central character, a villain who is particularly cruel and indifferent to life, a boy's quest for flight, and an unusual setting make for a good foundation. But the novel that hooks the reader early with a strong start becomes bogged down after the first one hundred pages. Conor's prison stint, which makes up the lengthy middle section, seems excessively slow and brings the novel to a near halt. The snappy dialogue, especially from the enjoyable villain, is darkly humorous and sparse but surely a highlight. The story is filled with turns and double-crosses, but events and characters seem to rely too much on luck and coincidence. Ultimately a few flaws keep this solid novel from flying any higher. Reviewer: Jeff Mann
AGERANGE: Ages 10 to 14.
The 1878 World's Fair in Paris was full of spectacles and inventions, but the most dramatic event for the Broekhart family was the early arrival of its first child, a son born in a hot air balloon who experienced his first near-death adventure when the balloon was shot from the sky. Eoin Colfer's latest novel grabs readers with this attention-getting beginning, then takes them several years into the future to a time when young Conor fashions a kite out of a flag to save Princess Isabella from a burning tower. Conor and Isabella spend their childhood roaming the secret passageways of the castle and taking all kinds of lessons: fencing, martial arts, weapons, and the science of flight for him; needlepoint, etiquette, heraldry, and some fencing for her. Their days pass in fun and learning, until Conor stumbled upon a plot to kill King Nicholas, Isabella's father, and frame Conor's teacher as the murderer. Conor is accused of treason by an ambitious and traitorous prime minister, and he is banished to the prison island of Little Saltee. There, he works in the diamond mines and fights for survival. Only his dreams of flight and his ingenious plans to build a flying machine keep him from going insane, until he can put his plans to use and escape. Once free, he must decide: should he head for America and begin a new life, or should he attempt to right the wrongs of the past? Witty dialogue, vivid details, and a quick plot maintain the story's momentum and appeal to even the most reluctant reader. While this story is a fantastic adventure in the classic sense, it should be noted that dark themes and some graphic violence may make it better suited to anolder audience than Colfer's principal fan base. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
Gr 7 Up- Eoin Colfer turns his special brand of humor and adventure to detailing the amazing life and times of young Conor Broekhart-born in a hot air balloon over Paris and thereafter destined to use his fascination with flight to save his parents, recapture a kingdom, and win the hand of a princess. John Keating's boyish voice and slight Scottish accent give this swashbuckling adventure story (Hyperion, 2008) just the right combination of realism and fantasy. His narrative skill captures the personalities of both main and supporting characters-from the consummate cold-hearted villain Marshall Hugo Bonvilain to the dashing and cavalier Victor Vigny. Older listeners will relish this entertaining coming-of-age story whose themes of friendship and betrayal, love and hate, and courage and fear play out amidst breathless scenes of action and violence. Somewhere between the old Errol Flynn movies and The Princess Bride , this camp, contrived, and complex mix of eccentric characters and fantastical situations provides an immensely satisfying listen.-Cindy Lombardo, Cleveland Public Library, OH
Praise for Airman:
'Swashbuckling high adventure . . . His strongest work yet' – Guardian
'Better fun than this will be hard to come by' – The Times
'A classic swashbuckling adventure' – Irish Independent Review
Praise for other books by Eoin Colfer:
'Wickedly brilliant' – Independent (on Artemis Fowl)
'As ever, Colfer's story rattles along at a tremendous pace with a cast of eccentric and explosive characters' – Guardian (on The Supernaturalist)
'Unputdownable' – Irish Times (on Half Moon Investigations)