In the 1890s 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 deadly conspiracy against the king. When Conor tries to intervene, 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 Conor passes the solitary months by scratching drawings of flying machines on 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 air.
Loved the plot and the opening scenes that detail Conor’s unique education and circumstances. When Conor’s charmed life comes to a sudden end, it put me in mind of The Count of Monte Cristo.
There was a lot of humour at the start of the book and a lovely comfortable feel, but as Conor’s life changes the tone of the book slips into a darker world. He ends up having to battle for his life in prison; a harsh world in which no-one expected him to survive. It’s also where the reader witnesses him push himself beyond his limits in a bid to achieve the impossible.
Conor is largely educated by the royal scientist who discusses more than science – and courtship- with young Conor, he also discusses philosophy, military strategy, social reform, music and so much more. I loved Conor, and all the other characters, even the villain is wonderfully complex and a pleasure to hate!
This was an exciting world based in a kingdom of rocky islands; a country set in our world and brought to life under Eoin Colfer’s pen. I think of this story as mildly steampunk because it’s an alternative history with gadgetry that’s not all hissing valves and aether currents.
It is highly recommended to anyone who loves suspense, action, and compelling characters.
This review counts towards my steampunk’d challenge. Five down and 25 to go 🙂