I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me about earlier flight, when people flew things made of wood and paper and filled with explosive gas. I’ve previously reviewed Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, both of which I loved, and which are about adventures in airships. I’m also a fan of stories set in in the Victorian and Edwardian eras (through to the Second World War really), especially alternatives as in Northern Lights (The Golden Compass to any Americans). Perhaps that goes some way to describing my excitement at reading Airman.

I have read many of the Artemis Fowl books so I was well aware who Colfer was and I liked his work although it didn’t necessarily resonate as much as some of the other authors I have read, perhaps partly because of his comical approach. That comic element is all but left behind for Airman and is replaced by a gripping adventure.

Conor Broekhart seems to have a great life ahead, son of the Captain of the wall guard in the fictional kingdom of the Saltees (islands off the coast of Ireland), his best friend is the princess, he’s friends with the king and he has a passion for flying, and so does his new teacher, so he spends his days learning to sword fight and figure out how to build a heavier-than-air flying machine. That is, until he ends up in the diamond mines/prison on Little Saltee.

There’s something of the Count of Monte Cristo about many aspects of the story, and yes, you can probably guess how it’ll end, but that doesn’t detract from a great story, with plenty of action, excitement and twists to keep you turning the pages (I read this in two evenings).

This is a more serious turn for Colfer and a great one I think, I’m just hoping Airman proves enough of a success to encourage him to write a sequel, or two.

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Reviewed: 12th July 2008