Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Artemis Fowl: Eoin Colfer, December 18, 2013—January 5, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
Eoin Colfer introduces a magical new series in Artemis Fowl. Combining the fantasy and spy genres, he presents an absorbing and hilarious story set in the heart of any fairy story: Ireland.
The eponymous title character is a devious 12-year-old genius who, in this first instalment, kidnaps Captain Holly Short, the first female recon officer in LEP history. He holds the fairy to ransom and it’s a battle of wits as he goes toe-to-toe with Short’s terrifying superior Commander Julius Root.
Colfer, via Artemis’s learning, swiftly establishes the rules by which his universe is bound, thereby instituting the boundaries of the Fowl/Short standoff and making clear the reasons why various courses of action are impractical. Any fairy who breaks their laws will lose their magic, and Root’s team seek to circumvent Fowl’s demands without contravening their sacred rules.
The plot zips along at an impressive pace. Though the bulk of the action covers a mere eight-hour period, there is virtually no downtime. Although this perhaps means a few missed opportunities for character development, there are plenty of twists, advantage-switches and bluffs to make up for it.
As a character, Fowl is a promising lead who, even in this first story, is developed by the end. While ostensibly the villain of the piece, we as readers develop something of a Stockholm Syndrome and root for him as much as, erm, Root. Speaking of whom, Root is a blast of brilliance and steals each and every scene he’s in. Hilarious and brutal, he’s rounded off a bit with some compassion and his standoff with an ex-pal really gives him the chance to be a stand-out character. Close behind, Foaly is atrociously funny with his dry wit, and his banter with Root shows the best of them both.
Mulch Diggums is less prominent, but treated to a fine entrance proper two-thirds of the way in after his earlier fleeting cameo. Holly Short, for being the kidnappee, is given something of a short shrift and is underused, but hopefully future instalments will see her flourish.
The madness of Angeline Fowl, Artemis’s mother, due to her on-going breakdown in the wake of the disappearance of Artemis Fowl I is a dark corner of the story. Colfer handles it sensitively and it’s never played for laughs, though her distress is so extreme it is uncomfortable against an otherwise tongue-in-cheek backdrop. For all it deepens Artemis’s character, Angeline’s scenes are out of place in tone.
Throughout the fairy and dwarf scenes, the characters often lament the fallacies of humanity. Not an original theme by any standard, but it fits well into the tale and in particular when they are confronted with Fowl of all people. Colfer’s challenge is clear, even if clumsily delivered.
Artemis Fowl is clearly set to be the progenitor of an outstanding series with the most remarkable cast, blisteringly funny narration and fabulously fun plots. There isn’t a dull moment to be had in this magical, fantastical stroke of genius that collides two very different genres and creates a masterpiece.