Start Date: 2 March 2011
End Date: 4 March 2011
412 pages (Paperback)
Published 21 April 2009
I'd say hands down that this is Colfer's best book. His absolute best. I enjoyed it immensely even the second (or maybe it was the third) time reading it. The plot never becomes dull or slows down too much, and it's incredibly hard to put down. From a clever plot to a villain you love to hate, from romance to humor, history to fencing, it has a bit of everything and appeals to a wide range of audiences.
The first line of the book says it all: "Conor Brokeheart was born to fly". He spends his childhood in the palace of the Saltee Islands studying fencing and aeronautics with his tutor Victor Vigny and playing with his best friend, Princess Isabella. However, when he stumbles across a plot to assassinate the king, he is thrown into the prisons of Little Saltee. There is only one way to escape Little Saltee: to fly away.
Throughout the book, even through the darkest parts, Colfer keeps the reader chuckling. There's a quote from when Conor is flying that I particularly liked:
"In theory, if one could successfully locate rising thermals, it was possible to fly forever suspended below a glider like this. Of course, this was a very optimistic theory, which did not allow for wear and tear, bad science, and the simple fact that thermals were only slightly less difficult to locate than unicorns."Also, there is a scene in the beginning of the book when Victor is teaching Conor to fence that was wonderfully written, but which I won't type out because it would be far too long. The descriptions of Conor fencing all throughout the book were great - they made me want to learn how to do it.
Another thing I noticed was in how the narrative switched points of view throughout the story. Most of the book in from Conor's point of view, but there are scenes from the point of Billtoe, the warden, Bonvilian, the villain (spoiler, highlight to see), and Declan, Conor's father. However, there is nothing from the point of view of Isabella. I think this is strange, since she's very important to the story - at least as much as Declan. Could it be because Colfer wants to keep the reader guessing about Isabella's feelings toward Conor? (another spoiler) Or is it simply because it didn't work for the story? I think it's a bit of both, but I'd be interested to hear other theories.
Overall, I think the story is wonderful and the writing is great. Highly, highly recommended to middle and high school readers.