Artemis Fowl is the first of an eight-book series, the last of which is set to release in July of 2012. I had heard of this book, but I jumped in without reading up on it, so I didn’t know what to expect. (Thanks, Tim, for Kindle-lending it to me!) In the words of the author, “It’s Die Hard with fairies.” I’d have to agree with that. That fairy bit surprised me. And so did Artemis, the twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. To say the least, this book was original.
Every page moves. Artemis, in his brilliant, underhand way, initiates a plan to rip off the fairies and make off with millions in gold. It doesn’t come off exactly as planned. Though he manages to outsmart them time and again with his brilliant intellect and vast resources, the fairies have some tricks of their own, including ultra-techy weaponry and an organized military. It really did read like a Die Hard movie for kids.
I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some of the other high-action commercial fiction I’ve read (which, as you all know by now, is not my favorite kidlit genre). In particular, I never connected with Artemis. I didn’t like him. He’s a cold, calculating kid who needs a good spanking. Or maybe a stint in juvie. I just never got behind him the whole time, even though there were flashes of humanity in him on occasion. I was amused by the fairy culture and their military organization, but I’m not a big fan of action movies, so I didn’t really care for all the shoot ‘em up in the book. Granted, it’s not overly graphic, though there are a few squeamish moments, like when Root breaks the fingers of a pickpocket, or when the troll disembowels Butler. (The body count only includes an unfortunate rabbit.) But I felt a little out of my element with all the detailed weapons, even if they are make-believe. It also has quite a few mild profanities, and it gets quite disgusting when the tunneling dwarf, uh, excretes all the dirt it ate onto someone.
I did like the quirks. Foaly the computer genius centaur wears a tin foil hat so human surveillance can’t read his mind. Commander Root is hugely entertaining with his larger-than-life and angrier-than-a-wounded-troll personality. The wise-cracking dialogue made me laugh several times. I liked Holly, too. She’s so normal, but she’s tough as nails when duty calls. And I could cheer on the fairies when they refuse to give up operations and leave their man (woman, actually) behind.
In conclusion, I wouldn’t ban Artemis Fowl from my kids—I would put a 10+ age limit on it—but I’d guide them to other choices first.
Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, book one), by Eoin Colfer, 2001, Book Review