Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
This is the first instalment of the Artemis Fowl series, which continues to grow in success as well as its number of books.
Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old genius born into the Fowl dynasty, that is, he is heir apparent and an already accomplished master of criminal activities that have founded the Fowl empire; he also has every intention of continuing in his father’s footsteps. With his manservant, bodyguard and all round unstoppable man mountain, Butler, Artemis proceeds in his plan to replenish the family coffers with gold…lots of it. But this is no ordinary gold he has set his sights on, this is Fairy Gold, but then Artemis is no ordinary 12 year old.
Having procured a copy of ‘The Book’ the fairy bible, Artemis translates and digests the secrets contained within, allowing him to track and trap a fairy who has come ‘topside’ from the fairy kingdom underground in order to fulfil a magical ceremony. Holly Short is a female officer in the LEP fairy police and as such is considered expendable by some of her senior officers, but thankfully not all of them. This story (sorry, factual account – Artemis Fowl is after all ‘real’) recounts the attempts of Artemis to blackmail ‘The People’, that’s magical folk to you and me, into giving him a rather large chunk of gold and The People try to stop the ‘Mud People’ that’s us humans, from succeeding in their plan and rescuing the kidnapped Officer Short. There is amazing technology used on both sides, the fairies comes courtesy of the resident Centaur, Foaly, who is as adept at crushing one-liners as he is at iris eye cameras and lava lifts. Root is Holly’s permanently purple-faced; bad tempered commanding officer who Foaly takes great delight in riling further. Along with the impressive technology are big, smelly Trolls and Tunnel Dwarfs that can dig at an amazing rate by unhinging their jaws and literally eating the soil as they burrow – no guesses where the soil has to exit!
Artemis is a supremely intelligent child that considers any signs of humility as weakness; however, he is not quite yet the hardened criminal his father was before him so remains a likeable and not completely ruthless character. Butler, his loyal servant is just the type of best friend you dream of having, capable of getting you out of any sticky situation and always on your side, even if they think you’re in the wrong. Holly Short is a LEPrechaun officer and as such has had years of intense and specialised training, so she should stop getting everything wrong at sometime, right?
This book is hugely enjoyable and has just the right mix of fantasy, humour, gadgets and thrills to keep even the most demanding of children entertained. Beware though; if you do buy this book be prepared to buy the rest, as another trick of Artemis Fowl’s is that he is highly addictive! Eoin Colfer has done his homework and knows exactly what his readers are looking for.
The British boy wonder is a popular trope in young adult fiction, with Harry Potter at the noble end of the scale and Artemis Fowl at the dastardly end of the scale. For all it's similarities to Harry Potter (prodigy who pretty much raises himself, hidden magical world of fairies, giant man as a best friend), Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer is a very good book in its own right and does more that enough to establish itself as its own series. I really enjoyed my time with this book, and if you liked Harry Potter then I bet you will like Artemis Fowl too.
The fun with this book is watching Artemis Fowl and the fairies trying to outwit each other, starting off with a reasonably mild plan but raising the stakes with each manoeuvre. It is a big game to Artemis, and he takes pride in being three or more steps ahead at every turn, but he is fallible, assuming that his quarry will play by their well documented rules. It's usually fun watching a genius' plan fail and seeing how they respond, and Colfer, for the most part, gets it right.
The characters construction in this book is interesting. They are all reasonably intelligent with plenty of confidence and charisma, but they still feel like very one dimensional personifications of human traits / qualities / sins. Ambition, greed, resourcefulness, honour, etc., you have a character for each one and not much doubling up. I think it works, especially given the target audience, but I would expect to see the later books flesh out these characters with a bit of complexity.
I'm not the biggest fan of the writing style, but it does suit the story Colfer wanted to tell. Part standard third person storytelling, part autobiography, part case file. It was annoying at times to read a scene and then have to read that scene again from a different point of view, but that's more of a personal gripe. It is also a little bit preachy with Colfer giving some air time to the evil actions of the mud people, like destroying the environment and creating weapons of cruelty, but Colfer isn't too heavy handed with his message and chances are you may notice it unless you are looking for it.
In summary, Artemis Fowl is fun and easy to read with charming characters and an interesting battle of wits. A fast paced light read about a boy genius trying to steal some fairy gold. My interest is piqued and I will definitely be reading more.
Ryan Lawler, 7.5/10
Gary from Vancouver, BC
Amazing novel. It's the best utilization of fantastical elements in an urban setting since Harry Potter. Artemis is one of the most interesting YA Fantasy heroes of all time.
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