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Cover image for Airman



1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion Books for Children, ©2008.
Physical Description:
412 pages ; 22 cm
pt. I. Broekhart. The princess and the pirate -- La Brosse -- Isabella -- Treason and plot -- pt. II. Finn. Little Saltee -- In the middle of wynter -- The devil's fork -- Conor Finn -- Light at the end -- Unlucky 14th -- To the queen, her crown -- pt. III. Airman. Angel or devil? -- The soldier's return -- Heads together -- Home -- Snakes in the grass -- Tangled web -- Heavier than air -- Time apart.
In the late nineteenth century, when Conor Broekhart discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king, he is branded a traitor, imprisoned, and forced to mine for diamonds under brutal conditions while he plans a daring escape from Little Saltee prison by way of a flying machine that he must design, build, and, hardest of all, trust to carry him to safety.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 5-8 5.8 16 Quiz 119440 English fiction, vocabulary quiz available.


Call Number
Colfer, E.

On Order



Conor Broekhart was born to fly. In fact, legend has it that he was born flying in a hot air balloon at the world's fair.

In the 1890's 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 conspiracy to overthrow the king. When Conor tries to expose the plot, 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 prisoners are forced to mine for diamonds in inhumane conditions.

There is only one way to escape Little Saltee, and that is to fly. So he passes the solitary months by scratching drawings of flying machines into 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 skies.

Author Notes

Eoin Colfer was born in Wexford, Ireland on May 14, 1965. After taking a three-year degree course in Dublin, he qualified as a primary teacher in 1986. Returning to Wexford he began teaching in a local primary school by day and wrote at night. In 1991, he left Ireland and spent the next four years working in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy. Resettling in Wexford after his arrival back in Ireland, he recommenced his teaching career, continuing his habit of writing after school. His first book, Benny and Omar, was published in October 1998. His other works include Benny and Babe, the O'Brien Flyers series, and the Artemis Fowl series. He became a full-time author following the success of Artemis Fowl. The Wish List won a Bisto Merit Award in 2001.

In 2015 he won an Irish Book Award in the children's category with his title Imaginary Fred.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

An homage both to the 19th-century science fiction of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, and to the superheroes of Marvel and DC comics, Colfer's latest brims with boy appeal. The story starts with the hero's portentous birth in a hot air balloon above the 1878 World's Fair, in Paris. But Conor Broekhart's home lies in the Saltee Islands, two (real) islets off the Irish coast, where he is raised as a favorite son, his best friend being Princess Isabella, King Nicholas's only heir. His key association, however, is with Isabella's tutor, a Frenchman who takes Conor under his wing, instructing him in fencing, fighting and the fledgling science of human flight-a consuming passion for many in the decade before the Wright Brothers' 1905 breakthrough. While the king is a progressive pacifist, his economy hums on the strength of diamonds mined in Little Saltee by prisoners under the control of Hugo Bonvilain, a Machiavellian despot harboring a deep grudge against the king. When Conor inadvertently witnesses a coup d'etat, Bonvilain twists facts to ensure the boy gets sentenced to mining gems in dank caves. The race to fly becomes more than a scientific pursuit; it turns into Conor's only chance to escape. Artemis Fowl fans will flock to this novel, and the polished, sophisticated storytelling here deserves an even wider audience than that bestseller. Conor Broekhart's superpower is his brain, and he uses his smarts to fight tyranny. A tour de force. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Middle School, High School) Born aboard a dirigible in 1878, Conor Broekhart grows up in the Saltee Islands, a (fictional) kingdom off the Irish coast ruled by a reform-minded king. At fourteen, a romance with headstrong Princess Isabella seems imminent, but Conor's bright future takes an abrupt detour when the king is assassinated. Framed for the murder by the scheming usurper Bonvilain, Conor is sent to the Saltees' diamond-mine prison. "Love must die," advises his cellmate, "but something must take its place...something that fills your dreams with hope but never pain." Thus Conor, sustained by his passions for freedom and flight, designs revolutionary flying machines on the walls of his cell and engages in a years-long battle of wits with Bonvilain. Though the story drags until Conor's imprisonment, from there on it hums with tension, drawing power from the many cards stacked against its protagonist and the misunderstandings dividing him from his beloved family and princess. Lightening this grim concoction is the heady aura of scientific possibility, plenty of period grit and flavor, and Conor's folk-hero presence, which is more than enough to engage readers and offset the minimal attention paid to characters. Colfer affects a formal, almost documentarian tone to relate Conor's tale from birth to triumphant manhood, and the brisk, unsentimental ending is satisfying without straying from those bounds. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Set at the end of the 19th century, this savage, enthralling melodrama pits a young would-be aviator against a high official so fiendishly clever and evil that his name--Bonvilain--seems a drastic understatement. On the Saltee Islands, a tiny kingdom off the Irish coast, 14-year-old Conor's idyllic life with best buddy Princess Isabella takes a brutal turn when Bonvilain secretly throws him into the diamond mines as part of a murderous plot to overthrow the local monarchy. Against steep odds, Conor survives and, several years later, engineers an aerial escape that leads to a wild climactic melee. Laced with explosions and sudden violence, well-stocked with ugly customers and replete with cliffhangers, this high-flying page-turner will keep readers riveted to their seats from opening gunshot to final sword thrust. (Science fiction. 12-15) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Author of the popular Artemis Fowl series, Colfer ventures into slightly different territory in this fantasy, which has the heft of historical fiction; a subset of characters whose physical attributes reflect their evil natures; dry humor; visceral horror; and swashbuckling action that keeps the story from becoming overly dark. Born in the basket of an air balloon, Conor Broekhart is sure he is destined to fly. But at 14, he accidentally witnesses the murder of his tutor and the sovereign of the tiny Saltee Islands where he lives, and everything changes.Villainous Marshall Bonvilain throws him into prison, convincing him that his family believes him guilty of the crime. Thus begins his new life as inmate Conor Finn, who devotes his considerable abilities to breaking out of  prison. Colfer grapples somewhat awkwardly with a few literary issues here: should he, for example, allow his hero to commit murder? There are also huge time gaps that are distracting and occasionally stall momentum. Readers may not notice, however, with so much else going for the book.--Zvirin, Stephanie Copyright 2008 Booklist