I just finished reading Eoin Colfer's book, 'Airman' last night. What a fantastic read! I know my boys will love this book. I think my sixth grader could enjoy it now, the others when they are a little older.
It is an adventure book, but with some really great character inside-the-head 'who-am-I-really?' moments. It had a really great feel to it. The main story is about young Conor Broekhart who lives on the fictional self-governed Saltee Islands just off the coast of Ireland. He is raised in the shadow of the palace and becomes bestfriends with Princess Isabella. It looks as if their friendship will blossom into something more, when the evil, usurping villain strikes. Conor is witness to the assassination of his king, and is ultimately blamed for it. He is carted of to the notorious Little Saltee prison, located one mile away on an isolated, barren, scrap of an island. There, he goes through two torturous years. But his desire to fly and to escape keep him going. The story of his inventions and his escape and eventual vengeance on all the villains great and small kept me reading. And of course, I wanted to see his name cleared and him reunited with his loved ones. I thought this was a great tween to YA book for boys and girls. The tension building up to the ending kept ratcheting up a notch, but was resolved with a satisfying ending.
The beginning of the book was a little longer than I usually like, but it laid the groundwork for all of the characters, their motivations and even for the flying machines. Overall, really great!
'Airman' reminded me of another book I read this fall, 'The Floating Islands' by Rachel Neumeier. It also has flying men and islands wanting to be independent from the mainland. The flying and magicmaking and dragons put it squarely in the field of fantasy. But I couldn't help but notice the similarities. Trei is a boy who has one desire, to become one of the karujai, the flying guardians of the floating islands. There are challenges and even imprisonment for Trei as well. There was also a strong female protagonist in this book. We see her more than Princess Isabella in 'Airman'. Trei's cousin Areane wants to use her talent to become a famous chef, a position that is only held by men. But it seems she has talent for more than spices when she stumbles into the palace of the magicians who also protect the island. It is wonderful storytelling that weaves together Trei's and Areane's different paths. Each has a pivotal role in saving the islands from a mainland invasion that saps the magic from the islands.
Both were a bit slow-moving at the beginning, but held great promise that was fulfilled with great satisfaction by the end. Nothing PG-13 in either. There were some rough beatings in 'Airman' and talk of killing and the ability to kill one's enemies, but no blood or gore. Most of it is psychological and in the framework of self-evaluation and survival. Something that is part of becoming a man...finding out what kind of man you are and what you can handle and where you set your limits. Really a fine book for middle school and up.