Airman by Eoin Colfer.
Hyperion Books for Children/Disney Book Group: NY, 2008.

Conor Broekhart, born to fly, born flying in a hot air balloon exhibited at the 1878 World's Fair in Paris, is given an exceptional education and training due to his parents' status in the Kingdom of the Saltee Islands (off the Irish coast) and his own daring exploits. Proclaimed a hero at age 9, he is trained by the King's friend and aeronaut enthusiast, Victor Vigny. A few years later he is caught in the crossfire of the Marshall Bonvilain's political manipulation and sent to rot or die on the prison island of Little Saltee. To survive he becomes a new person and collaborates with criminals. To escape will require using all of his knowledge and skills-including building and flying an untested device. He thinks he has turned his back on his prior familial existence, but to save his parents and queen from Bonvilain's ambitions, he will need to become a revolutionary aeronaut and risk life and limb without the usual safety precautions.

To the inhabitants of the Saltee Islands and Irish coast, Conor Broekhart A.K.A. Conor Finn must have been a wonder, almost a superhero, or to some a demon. With his ability to fly, so far not a regularly known possibility, and his near maniacal fighting skills, honed through his tutor's training and his need to survive prison. The ending in which Conor achieves his ultimate test and rescue attempt is masterful.

The story is darker and also has more depth than Artemis Fowl, another riveting creation of Colfer's. One of the things I like about Colfer is that each of his works is so different-from both what he has already done and anything else.

related-early flight, adventure, survival, political intrigue, diamond mining, 1890s, 19th century, spies, science fiction

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