Literature / Airman
Airman is an Alternate History adventure novel by Eoin Colfer.

Conor Broekhart lives on the Saltee Islands with his family off the coast of Ireland, the time period being the late 19th century. The islands are independent, ruled over by the benevolent King Nicholas, an old friend of Conor's parents. Conor's childhood is spent both playing around the island with the princess, Isabella, and studying with the Frenchman Victor Vigny, from whom he learns all about flight, swordplay, and other fun things.

Everything changes the day he discovers a plot to overthrow the king. This leads to him getting framed as a traitor by the would-be usurper and thrown into the prison mines of Little Saltee, where the only way off the island is by flight. Conor, only fourteen years old at the time, must call upon all of his training and wits to somehow escape, all the while trying to survive prison.

A trilogy taking place in the same universe and involving Time Travel, called WARP, was written by Colfer five years later.

Not to be confused with the Mega Man 2 boss.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Otto Malarkey, the thug-for-hire who will chat you up pleasantly before he beats you half to death.
  • The Alcatraz: Little Saltee.
  • Alternate History
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: King Nicholas. He was a skirmisher and balloonist during the American Civil War, and he's said to sleep on the window seat in his chambers because the bed is too soft.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Conor. Aeronautics are his real passion, but Vigny trained him well in a variety of subjects.
    • Vigny himself also qualifies.
  • Big Bad: Sir Hugo Bonvilain, high-ranking traitor and the man behind the plot for the throne.
  • Blind Musician: Linus Wynter.
  • Break the Cutie: This happens to Conor multiple times once he is sent to prison.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Conor and Isabella are on the verge of one, but then plot happens and Conor gets thrown in prison. She kisses him at the end of the novel.
  • Clear My Name: Conor plans to do this when he learns that Bonvilain plans to kill Isabella along with his parents. He's successful.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Quite a few of the characters. Conor and Vigny often sparred verbally during sword practice, and they're just two examples. This enters World of Snark at times.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Otto Malarkey.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Sultan Arif is quite unnerved at having to shove an old blind man to the ground, much less kill him.
    • He abandons Bonvilain after realizing just how insane he is.
  • First Kiss: Conor and Isabella share one the day before he leaves for Scotland.
  • Genius Bruiser: King Nicholas and Bonvilain.
  • Genre Roulette: The book frequently switches the kind of story it's telling. It's a nine-year-old's adventure. No, wait, it's a coming-of-age story. No, wait, it's prison life. No, wait, it's a Great Escape. No, wait, it's a one-man caper. No, wait, it's Clear My Name. This is not a bad thing.
  • Great Escape: Conor's escape from Little Saltee.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Conor starts off like this, being a straight-up hero who grew up with a loving family. Eventually his moral compass becomes clouded, and he swings into Anti-Hero for a time.
  • Historical Fiction
  • Hellhole Prison: Little Saltee.
  • Meaningful Name: Everyone in the Broekhart family has their heart broken. Also, Bonvilain's name means "good villain".
  • Missing Mom: Isabella's mother. She died when her daughter was just a baby.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Decklan Broekhart, when he realizes that the man he cursed and sent to prison was his own fourteen-year-old son.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Bonvilain actually has "villain" (without one "l") in his name. And yes, that's a real surname.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something:
    • King Nick, and how. Not only does he run the place, he's also responsible for ensuring its technological progress while still having time for his own research projects on the side. This is the reason Bonvilain kills him.
    • Isabella fills this role by the end; she's taken her role as queen and is planning major overhauls to the running of the place, including shutting down the Little Saltee prison and contracting the mining to a professional firm.
  • Science Hero: Conor and Vigny, who are obsessed with creating a perfect flying machine.
  • Self-Poisoning Gambit: At the climax Bonvilain attempts this, trying to poison Queen Isabella and Conor's parents during a shared toast. They suspect he's up to something, however, and refuse to drink even though he does. Later, Bonvilain is weakened enough by the poison that Conor is able to kill him.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Colfer's descriptions of the period's aircraft are spot-on regarding their reliability (or lack thereof), fragility, and handling problems.
    • He also accurately describes the effects of a stall and a forward slip.
  • Tattooed Crook: Otto Malarkey, who has, among other things, a price list for his services tattooed on his chest. Conor wonders what he'd do if he ever needed to change his prices. Malarkey admits that he'd never really thought about it.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Bonvilain has his Dragon mix a poison, Wolvesbane, which he will put in his wine and serve to his guests (Isabella and Conor's family). The poison is fatal if an entire glass is drunk, so Bonvilain would only drink half his glass while everyone else would empty theirs. He also tests it on his Dragon to see if he was telling the truth (he was chafing at this point), he was, but it still reduced him to a puking pained fit (symptoms which he warned Bonvilain about). This comes back to bite him in the climax.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Although he doesn't put himself in the spotlight, Bonvilain is in a position of power and is generally well-respected.
  • Warrior Poet: Bonvilain fancies himself to be one of these.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Linus gives this talk to Conor multiple times but it doesn't sink in until Bonvilain attacks Linus and Conor realizes that if he leaves his family will be killed.
  • Wicked Cultured: Bonvilain may be a soldier, but he's also a man of taste.
  • Younger Than They Look: Conor is able to pass himself off as an older man because of his height. This is not necessarily a good thing, since Bonvilain was able to use it against him.