Author: Eoin Colfer
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Series: Artemis Fowl Book One
Artemis Fowl has been a series that has frequently been compared to Harry Potter due to its success, its being published as a middle grade fantasy novel, and because it features our real world set alongside a secret magical one. Aside from this though, Artemis and Harry are two different series’, let alone two very different characters.
The first part of an eight book series by Eoin Colfer, is heavy on fun action scenes, while a little light on substance. Nevertheless this is still an entertaining book. It’s one you don’t have to think too hard about, yet it’s simplicity didn’t bother me a whole lot. This is safe for children, and I’m sure some adults would have a fun time reading it, too.
Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old super genius, and a descendant and current leader of the famous Fowl criminal family. After doing some significant research he believes the existence of fairies are real, and manages to manipulate a sprite into giving him The Book of the People. This book, which is written in Gnommish, holds the key to how the fairies use their magic and what their protocols are for interacting with humans. Fowl and his servant Butler capture LEPrecon (pun on the word leprechaun intended) Captain Holly Short, an elf from the magical world, triggering events that finally bring the magical and real world to a head for the first time ever.
Artemis Fowl, for all intents and purposes, is the primary antagonist of this book, although in reality he is a very redeemable character, and functions more like an antihero. As a person, Artemis is cocky and arrogant, definitely not the person you’d ever meet and become friends with. His kidnapping of Holly is despicable, and the way he treats his best friend and servants the Butlers not only needlessly puts their lives as risk, but it shows how little he thinks of others.
Holly on the other hand is the exact opposite. She will go out of her way to not only save fairies and other magical creatures, but humans as well. She is the first female officer in LEPrecon, and feels the pressure to perform her very best, but she often will break rules much to the ire of her temperamental boss Beetroot. Beetroot, which is nickname that describes how often his face turns beet-red, may be tough on the fairies under his command, but he is also like a protective father to them. Other magical creatures that make appearances include Foaly the Centaur, who is really sarcastic, but also a brilliant inventor of a lot of the fairies technology, and Mulch Diggums an imprisoned dwarf that is renowned for his digging abilities and for his desire for breaking and stealing objects from human houses.
Colfer writes some fun action scenes, and these occur aplenty throughout the book, making it a fast paced read with little time for chit-chat. The worldbuilding is decent with a lot of traditional mythological characters making appearances likes elfs, dwarfs, and trolls. These creatures are different enough from the way Tolkien used them, and for that I was thankful. Magical rituals that give the fairies their magic adds a strange sort of mythology to the story, albeit one that works.
The story seems to struggle with exploring some real base themes that are almost universal and exclusively explored in Tolkien inspired fantasy: good vs. evil and the dangers of greed. Nothing new there, and these themes are barely explored anyway. Prose is also something that Colfer struggles with. I don’t like to be too hard on a middle grade book for this, but their are number of instances where the way the story is told gets distracting.
A larger plot is never introduced either, despite being an eight books series. This is a risky venture, but due to the namesake of the series being a sort of antagonist, it creates enough interest and potential for it work as a series of individual adventures.