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I first read this book when I was the target age, when I was about 12, and I was hooked; I've reread it several times, and have read all the sequels. This is the first book in the Artemis Fowl series. It follows the eponymous anti-hero, Artemis Fowl, a child criminal mastermind. While it is set predominantly in Ireland, it is also partially set in Haven, the hidden underground fairy realm, and home to most of the series' main characters. I would recommend starting with this novel before going on to read any of the others, as it nicely sets up the main characters and their relationships with each other.
The story begins in Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam. Artemis Fowl has travelled there with his bodyguard, Butler, on the trail of some information. But rather than just being ordinary information, Artemis is after something quite unusual; the book of the fairy people, which will grant him access to fairy magic, and most importantly, their gold. Being a child genius, Artemis succeeds in tricking the book out of the hands of its owner, and translating it. He learns of the ritual by which fairies must restore their magic, and so sets up an ambush, hoping to capture a fairy he can ransom.
Meanwhile, the elvish police officer Holly Short is on the trail of a rogue troll, who has broken out of Haven and is heading for the earth's surface. She manages to capture the troll, but uses up all her magic doing so, and so must perform the ritual to restore it. Little does she realise that the site she has chosen is the one currently watched by Artemis and Butler.
With Holly captured, the Lower Elements Police, or LEP, send in a rescue force, led by the irascible Commander Julius Root. Foaly the centaur is the LEP's technical advisor, while the dwarf Mulch Diggums reluctantly agrees to break and enter, but only with the promise of a pardon for his kleptomania. Inside the house, Artemis, Butler, and Butler's sister Juliet must try and keep Holly hostage, and bargain for her safe return. But is gold all Artemis is really after?
'Artemis Fowl' is a very funny and action-packed book. The characters all have individual and very likeable personalities: Holly is a fairy feminist with a kick-ass attitude, Foaly a geek more concerned with his gadgets and winding up his commanding officers than the severity of the situation, Mulch is the lovable rogue, Butler is the slightly exasperated voice of reason, and Juliet is inexperienced, but with a gung-ho attitude. Artemis, meanwhile, is the perfect anti-hero; perfectly vile in his actions, but you get a sense there is more to him than that, and his extreme intelligence for his age makes him fascinating. Of all the characters, it is Artemis who develops most throughout the book, and by the end you have the sense that he is not just a criminal mastermind, but also a little boy who cares about his family. I honestly couldn't choose which is my favourite character. The plot itself revolves mainly around the siege of Fowl Manor. While not a lot actually happens, it still manages to be fast-paced and excited, as the fairies seek ever more imaginative ways to break in, and Artemis and the Butlers try to keep them out. The story isn't just all action, it also has a strong moral, and an ending with real emotional clout. With the plot, characters and writing all excellent, this will appeal both to children and to adults looking for a lighter read.
Artemis Fowl is the first in a series of books written by Eoin Colfer that tell the tale of the title's Artemis Fowl; criminal mastermind and heir to the Fowl fortune. Artemis has a fiendishly clever plot to do what no ever human has successfully done; steal fairy gold. He's twelve years old...
You're probably thinking, 'that sounds like a kid's book'. You'd be thinking correctly. The Artemis Fowl books are clearly aimed at teens or 'young adults'. When I started reading the Fowl books, I was the right age. Now I'm rather old and decrepit, and yet I still love reading the books. As with Harry Potter, these are books that adults can enjoy too. Personally I'd take Artemis over Harry any day of the week.
Artemis Fowl the Second is a child prodigy. He's also incredibly cold and ruthless. Artemis has discovered that fairies really do exist, and realising he can get his hands on a stack load of cash, hatches a plan to kidnap one, with the help of his faithful bodyguard and butler, Butler. Get used to daft names and brilliantly bad puns. The fairy he kidnaps happens to be a LEPrecon officer (told you!) Holly Short. As well as being short in stature, she's short on magic (it's catching, I swear), making her incredibly vulnerable to Artemis' nefarious plans. She's taken back to Fowl Manor and held to ransom. Artemis knows of all the fairies rules and rituals and therefore has a lot of fun exploiting him. Holly's fellow officers plan to free her without relinquishing the gold, but they have no idea just how smart Artemis is. If they want to succeed, they have to play dirty and break the rules, something Artemis did not plan for...
Artemis Fowl - The protagonist is not an all-round good guy. In fact he's quite the opposite. Artemis Fowl the Second is a 12 year old genius, and his criminal leanings seem to be inherited from a long line of greedy criminal masterminds. Artemis himself is first portrayed as being cold and manipulative, and his only companion is his bodyguard, Butler. His father disappeared during some criminal activity, causing his mother, Angeline to become unhinged. She spends much of the book confined to the attic, in her own world and fantasies. Butler is therefore the closest thing Artemis has to a father figure/authority figure and yet Butler takes orders from his young charge, so the dynamic is intriguing, funny and occasionally rather sweet. Despite being rather despicable, Artemis is a very charismatic character, and you find yourself rooting for him, even though you feel wrong for doing so. As the novel progresses, there is the occasional moment where you realise Artemis is just a child, and his home life paints a rather sad picture (though Master Fowl would find it distasteful to show any kind of weakness). Witty, scathing, ruthless and calculating, Artemis is an unlikely protagonist for a kid's book, but I found it refreshing.
Butler - As Artemis comes from a long lines of criminals, so Butler comes from a long line of bodyguards. They are assigned a member of the Fowl family and stick with them until their death. Butler cuts a rather terrifying figure; he is referred to as a man mountain, and despite his size is incredibly graceful in delivering rather nasty blows. He's by no means an idiot, but he's well aware that young Artemis is a good deal smarter than him, and he trusts him implicitly. Loyal to his master, he will follow any order Artemis dishes out, even if he suspects it will kill him. He's not a meathead either; although he would kill anyone who ever suggested it, he has a cuddly side to him. The relationship Butler has with Artemis is one of the most touching throughout the series.
Captain Holly Short - Holly is the first female member of elite force LEPrecon, and as such is closely watched by her fellow officers and superiors. This is unfortunate as she swiftly manages to make herself vulnerable to attack from the 'mud people'. Holly is feisty, brave, determined and a little bit mouthy. She's a mouthpiece that allows Colfer to have a good old moan about the way us mud people have ruined the beauty of the landscape, as well as our penchant for violence. Luckily it never goes into preachy territory, and Holly is a very likeable character. Despite what I said about rooting for Artemis, you do also want the fairy to escape, so you find your loyalties split.
The novel is full of colourful and funny characters. Commander Root is wonderfully gruff and grumpy, but he shows genuine concern for Holly. His terse exchanges with paranoid computer whiz Fouly causes some genuine LOLs as the kids say. Fouly; a centaur who never takes his foil hat off, enjoys winding up Root with his sarcastic comments, but he quickly shuts up when Root hints at a pay cut. Then there's Mulch, a kleptomaniac dwarf who's recruited to tunnel into Fowl Manor when the fairies are forbidden from entering. He has a rather novel and disgusting way of getting rid the earth he tunnels and although he's not in it for long, he leaves a lasting impression.
I know this is sounding pretty daft, and in a world where Harry Potter exists, it might seem like a cheap rip off in an attempt to have a piggyback on the Potter success. But the Fowl series is its own beast and while it shares the fantastical elements with Potter, it's lighter, funnier and to me the characters are far more interesting. To have a misanthrope as the 'hero' is a bold move in a kid's book; Colfer isn't afraid to make Artemis unlikeable at times. He doesn't patronise his audience either, there are some books I read as a teen that I can't stand now but Artemis Fowl is as enjoyable now that I'm 24 as when I was 15. There's also a little bit of swearing in there to make it more 'grown up'. Well, the swearing is in Gnommish; 'D'Arvit!' is the fairy equivalent of dropping the F bomb. The book is exciting, fast-paced and never drags. Personally I think the book that follows this (The Arctic Incident) is even better, so expect a gushing review of that soon.
The book I reviewed is a hardback. The cover is made to look like 'The Book of the People' - the book Artemis acquires in the opening chapter. It has some symbols on the front that is the language of the people and these symbols run across the bottom of each page. If you're like me and have a lot of time on your hands, you can decipher it. I thought that was rather fun (I don't think it needs pointing out I'm a complete nerd).
Price and Availability
Easy enough to get hold of, you can find it on the high street and internet and a good price. It's available in hardback, paperback and audiobook with various different covers. On Amazon, you can get it in paperback new from £4.46 and used from £0.01.