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“No, Little Saltee is not a place for mirth. No Maypoles nor circus antics. Especially not for Conor Finn….”

In the 1800s, Little Saltee, an island off the coast of Ireland, had become widely known to those who were imprisoned there as “Hell.” At the age of 14, Conor Broekhart has seen his beloved tutor killed, discovered a conspiracy against the king (who had been like a father to him), and been thrown into the Little Saltee prison and branded a traitor. This has been through the power-hungry efforts of the conniving Marshall Hugo Bonvilain. Surely nothing could be worse than these things --- but the horrors of Little Saltee and the madmen who rule that dark world make these nightmares far more threatening.

Upon his arrival he meets Biltoe, a guard personally assigned to Conor who will do anything to make the boy’s life even more miserable. After numerous beatings Conor is initiated into the “Little Saltee Kiss,” a process consisting of being thrown into a pool of flesh-eating mites and then being branded for life.

“The mites went to work…scraping his skin with their infinitesimal teeth. To Conor this seemed like macabre torture: but to his person, these mites were a boon. Plant spores, agitated by the mites, disinfected his wounds, which the mites cleaned by eating all traces of infection. They chipped off blood and scab, diving deep into gashes, chewing back to the bare wound.”

Conor’s only hope for survival is to flee. He has always dreamed of flying, and under Victor’s careful teaching, he has learned much about the process. But how can a flying machine be made in this terrible place? His every move is monitored and every day brings new ways of torment from the brutal guards. As the years pass he fights hard for survival and a place of respect among his fellow prisoners, all the while carefully ploting his miraculous escape.

With the intervention of a wise but blind ex-prisoner, Conor comes to realize he cannot just “fly-away.” He must let his father know that he is still alive, see Isabella (the king’s daughter and Conor’s dear childhood friend) and save the little kingdom from the twisted plotting of the evil Bonvilain. He knows that his mission has become much more complicated and that he truly risks losing everything if he does not succeed. Though only 17, he has lived and seen much more than most men twice his age.

Eoin Colfer --- the bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series --- brings in elements of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, THE THREE MUSKETEERS and other favorite classic tales. Suspense, adventure, mystery, intrigue and even a little romance make this a refreshing, totally satisfying read. The question now is, what happens to Conor? Will there be a follow-up to AIRMAN? We can only hope so.

Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on January 2, 2008

by Eoin Colfer

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2009
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
  • ISBN-10: 1423107519
  • ISBN-13: 9781423107514