Book Review: “Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer

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Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer

This book may be a little brutal for very young readers, I don’t know. The title character is a 12-year-old criminal mastermind, from an old Irish noble family of criminals, whose father disappeared in a nasty encounter with the Russian mafia (but his son still doesn’t presume him dead) and whose mother, shattered by the tragedy, seems to be going insane. For family all he really has left is his body guard–a huge muscle-bound martial-arts freak called Butler–and Butler’s gung-ho kid sister Juliet. Artemis decides to rebuild his family’s fortune by exploiting a source of funds no human has previously succeeded in tapping. He decides to steal fairy gold.

Step one is to get hold of the text of the Fair Folk’s jealously guarded Book, which is like a fairy Bible and is practically impossible to clap mortal eyes on. But he is just devious enough, and has just the right resources, to do it.

Step two is to use what he learns to target a leprechaun to hold for ransom for a ton of gold. I mean, a literal ton of 24-carat gold in small, unmarked ingots.

Step three is to survive the fairy world’s high-tech, crack police force, who will try to terminate him with extreme prejudice. This proves to be the tricky part, since the fairies have access to tunneling dwarfs, scenery-bashing trolls, blaster guns, spy cameras, a device that can stop time within a shielded area, AND a bomb called “blue rinse” that can wipe out all living things in the blast radius without damaging the architecture. Plus, the hostage, a resourceful & powerful elf cop named Holly Short, proves to be a tough customer in her own right.

There are some interesting personalities in the story, and lots of humor and action and thrills, but there are a couple things I want to caution you about. One is the moral ambiguity of the whole thing. The story has two heroes, really: Artemis Fowl and Holly Short. Holly is really more the hero type, to tell the truth. Fowl is kind of a villain, but not altogether without sympathetic characteristics. But there is a disturbing sense of amorality on both sides, and I find it hard to sympathize with either side. Maybe that’s the point of the story, which makes it even more disturbing and possibly offensive; not that you recognize evil qualities in good people or good qualities in evil people, but that you don’t care who’s good or evil, or you don’t care if either of them are good, and you just root for whoever seems coolest at the time. I think that’s a demoralizing point of view.

The second problem, closely related to the first, is the cold-blooded murder, coolly contemplated by some of the leading characters. Maybe kids today are desensitized to that sort of thing, which I think is too bad. If they are sensitive about it, I wouldn’t want to desensitize them. And books like this could do that. That is my caution; make up your own mind!

To visit a site for Artemis Fowl fans, click here.