In the 1890s Conor and his family live on the sovereign Saltee Islands, off the Irish coast. Conor spends his days studying the science of flight with his tutor and exploring the castle with the king’s daughter, Princess Isabella. But the boy’s idyllic life changes forever the day he discovers a deadly conspiracy against the king. When Conor tries to intervene, he is branded a traitor and thrown into jail on the prison island of Little Saltee. There, he has to fight for his life, as he and the other prosoners are forced to mine for diamonds in inhumane conditions.
There is only one way to escape Little Saltee, and that is to fly. So Conor passes the solitary months by scratching drawings of flying machines on the prison walls. The months turn into years; but eventually the day comes when Conor must find the courage to trust his revolutionary designs and take to the air.
First Look: ***** It's by Eoin Colfer. That's the only reason I picked it up. How can you not love an Eoin Colfer book? And that is a cool contraption on the cover.
Setting: ***** I never knew the Saltee Islands even existed until after I read this. Then again, I'm not European. I like reading books that take place in new places I didn't know of! It was well-described, but it just lacked the special spark to make me truly love it. I don't know what the special spark is, but when you come across it you'll know it.
Characters: ***** Conor reminded me so much of Artemis Fowl. He is passionate about his obsessions and tends to ignore just about everything else. I really felt connected to him. And the rest of his family, too. I love the last name--Broekhart. It's very fitting. I was not happy at all when Victor *spoiler alert! Highlight to read* died. *cries*. I also liked Isabella; she would even be a great main character all on her own. Even Arthur Billtoe had a well-developed personality, even though I hated him. But I suspect that was the point.
Plot: ***** I'm not quite sure what I expected, but it wasn't this. That being said, it was great! My only problem was that the inside cover mentioned a conspiracy against the king. Well, there was a conspiracy, yes, but...it almost ended before it began. I would've liked to see more of it. And it's really hard saying this without stepping on a spoiler bomb here. All I can say is that some of the prose spent on Conor's prison time would have been put to better use thwarting conspiracies. I still liked it, though.
Uniqueness: ***** It was unique! Especially since it's hard to find a straight historical fiction that's not too old.
Writing: ***** Well, yeah. It's Eoin Colfer, ladies and gentlemen. He's a master of storytelling. He's one of those authors where you can open up to one of his books without knowing the title and you'll be able to tell. Just like in Artemis Fowl, he keeps it going at a good pace and switches points of views very clearly. And he does like to go into some scientific details once and awhile.
Likes: Castle politics! Yay!
Not-so-great: I hated Bonvilain. Then again, I was supposed to. He was the antagonist after all.
Total Score: ***** Both fans and nonfans of the Artemis Fowl series will enjoy this. Eoin Colfer has captured mankind's dreams of flying and put it into a YA book. It's a great story about both airplanes and family, among other things. It's even witty in a few places. Recommended for Artemis Fowl fans, history lovers, or just people who are looking for an exciting story.
PS: "Eoin" is just a funny way of spelling "Owen".