Steampunk’d Challenge Review: Airman by Eoin Colfer

Standalone or Series? Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 415 pages
Published: January 2nd 2008 (first published 1st June 2007)
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Author’s Site: Eoin Colfer
Author on Tweeter: @eoincolfer
Buy:The Book Depository

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 🙂


  1. I’m not normally one to pick up steampunk novels, but from your review Katja, Airman sounds like it has a lot to offer. I adore novels which are packed with suspense and action, but also a great romance! Lovely review! 🙂

  2. Oh wow! This sounds fantastic all around, and I’m surprised that I haven’t heard more about it yet. I’m sure I’ve come across this author before though, but I don’t think I’ve tried his books yet. You definitely make me want to. 🙂 Great review!

  3. I’ve been interested in reading more steampunk novels (the only one that comes to mind that I’ve read is the Leviathan series by Westerfeld), so I’m glad to see this one get such a great review! I do love me some action, suspense, and compelling characters, so this one is definitely going on my TBR list!

  4. I loved this book 😀 I always read the big reveal chapter over and over again. I love the setting and the steampunk elements as well. Glad you liked it, I don’t know many who have read this one!

    1. I know, I think you and Jenny of TheBooksTheArtAndMe are the only two other bloggers I know who’ve read it, it’s so much better than his other books and doesn’t seem to be as well known. I heard a while back it was being made into a movie, but that doesn’t look to be the case.

  5. I love Airman! The atmosphere is fantastic, and the adventure element too! I would have liked Isabella to have a stronger role, but else than that it’s a great read 🙂 Good luck with the challenge – I’m thinking of doing a mini-version over the summer! If you could recommend only one steampunk novel – what would it be? 🙂

  6. So happy you enjoyed this, Katja! I loved the author’s Artemis Fowl series, but never thought to check out his other books. So I have to thank you for putting this on my radar. 🙂 I find that in steampunk books, the character interactions are quite limited due to the amount of effort put into the world building, but this one sounds so nicely done – especially the falling in love for the first time part. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that goes through that process like how you described it to be.

    Hope to get my hands on this one day, and fabulous review!

  7. Having read your review, Airman sounds even more tempting. One aspect I worry about is the tone and voice — if it’s too ‘mechanical,’ so to speak, or dry/tedious. I’m glad to know there’s good pacing and humor at the start of the novel, because that’s always a good way to get me sucked in. I can’t wait to have this in my hands and start reading it!

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