Friday, October 15, 2010

Airman by Eoin Colfer

Airman by Eoin Colfer

So, ever since reading Leviathan I’ve been really interested in the Steampunk genre. Aided by this booklist on Gail Carriger’s website, I’ve been exploring this genre more. Airman by Eoin Colfer takes place during the later half of the 1800’s and focuses a lot on man’s quest for flight. This books is told in a narrative style that draws you into the story, and makes you wonder exactly how much of this story is true or false. I found the style charming because it made the setting and world of the characters feel more real. The plot centers around a young boy Connor, who lives on the Saltee Islands, barren wastes of rock off the coast of Ireland, whose only source of income are its numerous diamond mines.

The Islands have recently crowned a new king, a man of science and progress, who is determined to make the lives of his subjects improved through the discoveries of science. Connor’s father is the king’s friend and the commander of his defensive wall. So, Connor spends much of his youth roaming the castle with Princess Isabella, and his teenage years being tutored in the arts of science and self-defense by the eccentric French airman Victor Vigny. Connor and his tutor are obsessed with creating a machine that will allow men to fly, but in the midst of their planning and preparations Connor discovers a plot against the king.

As the only witness to an assassination he is thrown into infamous Saltee prison, and left to believe that even his family thinks that he committed the crime himself. As Connor adjusts to the harsh realities in prison he must use the skills that Victor taught him to both say alive, and to escape. Covering his prison walls with sketches and diagrams of flying machines Connor is determined to fly away from his prison cell.

I think one of the strengths of this book is the setting. It seems so real and the Saltee Islands and its inhabitants have a character all their own. I really enjoyed reading about this little Island and one comes away from reading the book feeling like it was a real place. I also admired Connor’s character. He was really brilliant, but he still was likable because he had to struggle so hard to survive. His time in prison is dark, and a little bit violent, but the author manages to make prison bearable for him in a realistic way, and show how his character grows. Connor manages to use his wits to not only survive prison, but do so with some of his morals intact. I like the fact that though he was threatened with violence that he found a way to win over his enemies without killing them and even making them into friends. This makes his character all the more likable and admirable. This will really appeal to boy audiences, as it has clever flying machines, sword fights, and the thrill of a great adventure story. Overall, this book was a satisfying and enjoyable read.

Eoin Colfer's Website

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