Description: In the late nineteenth century, when Conor Broekhart discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king, he is branded a traitor, imprisoned, and forced to mine for diamonds under brutal conditions while he plans a daring escape from Little Saltee prison by way of a flying machine that he must design, build, and, hardest of all, trust to carry him to safety.(Source: Goodreads)
I picked this book up quite a while ago, but never got around to reading it until I decided to give it away. I'm not sure why I never read it, because everything about this seems like it would be to my taste. I really enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series, and laugh like a loon whenever I read them, so I had a pretty good idea that I would like his other books, but still I put this off.
Well I'm glad that I decided to give it away, because it gave me an excuse to read this sooner than later, and I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed it.
This was nothing like the AF series. There's not really any fantasy here, or magic or ridiculous jokes or gutter-humor or any of the stuff that I loved about the AF series, but I enjoyed this as much for the lack of those things as I loved AF for them. This book definitely has a more serious, somber tone, and in many ways it reminded me of one of the greats, The Count of Monte Cristo. That is a huge compliment coming from me, because COMC is without a doubt one of the greatest books about betrayal and revenge ever written, and I adored all 1300 pages of it. This is not a YA reproduction of The Count of Monte Cristo, however. The storyline here veers off in its own direction, and follows its own trail, but the tone, and some of the details just brought the classic to mind.
I glanced at a few reviews of this book and see that a common complaint was the darkness and bleak feeling of the story, the hopelessness. I don't agree that that's how the story was portrayed. Yes, overall it was far from light and happy, but again the story warranted a darker and hopeless feeling. I thought the somber tone was appropriate for this story, considering all that poor Conor endured, and all that he lost: his freedom, his family, his love, his country, his honor. These are not happy events. Even so, Colfer did a great job at weaving some threads of lightness and humor into the story to break up the solemnity of the main story. It was done in a very subtle manner, not at all overstated and blatant like the humor in the Artemis Fowl series, but it had me giggling all the same. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the tone fit the story for me, and anything much lighter would have been out of place.
Moving on to the characters, I have to say that I really liked all of them. I would have liked a little bit more depth, especially in Conor. As much as I liked him, and I really did, his only real flaw was in his despair and willingness to move on and start over without even trying to bring out the truth and set things to rights. I know that he'd been through a torturous 3 years, but considering that he was so determined in everything else, you'd think that his determination, and the anger at his mistreatment would spark a vengeance in him. He was just a little too perfect, a little too noble and charitable.
I really liked Declan, Conor's father, and felt for his loss. He was grieving and feeling guilty and angry and lost himself. Even though I empathized with him, I still would have liked a bit more personal grief and anger from him. It was told, not felt. It served the purpose, but I would have just liked a bit more.
The Marshall was decidedly villainous and evil, and even though I immensely disliked him, I could not help but laugh at some of his wittier comments and thoughts. He's so unabashedly bad that he becomes a bit funny, but not funny to the point at which he's no longer awful, but just funny as in "Wow, I can't believe people are really THAT horrible!"
I really liked the scientific and engineering historical references in this story. It lent the book a feeling of realism and groundedness that it would have been lacking otherwise. I would still classify it as an adventure story, but with these details, it has a more real historical feel.
I must admit that I was so engrossed in the story that I was surprised to find that 3/4 of it had passed in build-up, and that the resolution was yet to be hinted at. You'd think that the end would feel rushed in this kind of a situation, but I didn't feel that way after everything was said and done. The resolution, while very different than what I thought would occur, fit the story very well, and left the reader an opening to extend the ending as they choose.
Overall, I really liked this one, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for something enjoyable and interesting to read.
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