Book Review: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1)

By Eoin Colfer

Published by Miramax in 2001

316 pages

Genres:Fantasy, Sci-fi, Action, Middle-Grade Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars

Book Summary: Artemis Fowl, simply put, is a genius. A criminal mastermind and only twelve years old, Artemis Fowl II has come up with his most audacious plan yet: to restore his family’s fortune by kidnapping a Fairy. Fairies don’t exist, you scoff? Well, Artemis will prove you wrong.

“Stay back, human. You don’t know what you are dealing with.”

~ Captain Holly Short


Once upon a time, there was a nine year old girl in her English class. Basically friendless, and a fast worker, she went to her pitiful, 5 book class library, and chose a random book. She snuck back to her desk and opened the book, pretending to work. She was suddenly sucked into Ho Chi Minh city, enchanted by the criminal twelve-year old Artemis. And his Butler, Butler. She was so absorbed that she forgot about her surroundings, and when it was time for Math, her teacher realized she was reading, and snatched the book away. But it was too late : the girl could not go back to work, already obsessed…

I need mooooore…

That girl, as you may have guessed, was me. Artemis Fowl intrigued me from the very beginning. The premise was pretty interesting. Stay back, human? Fairies that aren’t the usual kind of fairies? Criminal plots? I think teenage (or kid) masterminds are a thing. Nothing better than reading a know-it-all look like he’s about to get whupped and end up getting it all right after all.

I noticed that on the back of the book, it was compared to Harry Potter. As in, the next Harry Potter. And that is wrong. On so many levels. First of all, although Artemis is 12, he isn’t really naive and is definitely NOT a do-gooder. He has committed crimes, and is will to commit another crime to get what he wants.

Secondly, the magical creatures here are about a 180 from the creatures in Harry Potter. The names might be similar, and they may have magic, but in AF (F: Uh huh, I see… AF as in Artemis Fowl.  I just have to say though, I’m cool af. But in my world it’s always cool As Faith.), they are technologically advanced and therefore the novel reads more like a sci-fi book than magic and fantasy.

Ahem…mini-rant over…

The book starts off in Ho Chi Minh city, where Artemis and Butler are following leads, trying to find an actual fairy. However, this time, they actually have found an alcoholic sprite, and offer medicine in exchange for the Book (aka the fairies’ holy book). Once Artemis finally translates it, he begins to plan a fairy kidnapping. See, when a fairy is kidnapped by human, there used to be a hostage fund filled with tonnes of gold bars. He ends up capturing a Lower Elements Police recon (LEPrecon, but really, Holly is an elf). Captain Holly Short has been down on luck, from being the only female in the elite forces, to a major incident with a troll. Her kidnapping was icing on the cake. The rest of the book centers on the tactics the LEP use in order to retrieve Holly without giving up the gold, and how Artemis foils (and fouls get it? fowls?) their plans.

This book tore me apart in a good way. I did not know who to cheer for: Fowl, the sassy boy genius or Holly, the badass female captain. Something from this book that really stood out was the vividness of the characters. Every single person (human, fairy and otherwise) had something prominent about them.

Holly is likable and capable, as well as the only female in a sexist troop. She’s uber cool and quick: her vocabulary does not include damsel in distress.

Butler (the butler) (F: Wait, what?? I thought he’d be a pizza delivery guy… #disappointments) is great because he can kick anyone’s butt: his relationship with Artemis made both of them all the more likable. He occasionally feels like the side kick: you know, the only rational one, always dragged into crazy schemes, and pretty sassy when he’s not kicking literal butt.

And Artemis. Boy oh boy, where do I start? He is a cool customer: never flinching no matter what’s thrown at him and always 2 steps ahead. His hoity-toity manner (and the way he backs it up) will amuse most readers. He’s also multi-dimensional, not just a caricature of a villain. The book shows other, softer sides to him, like when he is worried about his mother and when Butler was being attacked. There are also moments when his uncertainty show through: he questions if what he’s doing is right. He also has a shred humanity: it becomes obvious that he really doesn’t want to kill Holly ~ and he does something in the end (which I shall not spoil).

The other, secondary characters are just as amusing and interesting: from Root (who has some anger problems) to Foaly (a paranoid tech head), the interactions and dialogues (as well as the absurd situations) are very amusing.

The plot and premise were interesting: from the get go, most readers will want to know if Artemis succeeds… and if so, how. The style of writing (in my opinion) was marvelous. Keeping all the cards close until the end, in which we see the final result resulted in an eternal cliffhanger (F: Yeah, we all know about those… btw if you want, you can check out our cliffhanger post!): I just had to find out what happened next (eternal curses to the teacher who took it away when I was halfway through). Again, the Eoin Colfer’s way of inserting sassy (and amusing) comments and thoughts/notes made it amusing.  It was very engaging and set the scene. It made my inner child go yay!

Looking at other people’s reviews, I noted that the negative reviews didn’t like the way the fairies (and by proxy) the author spoke about humans (as they are referred to as Mud Men). They say it was heavy handed and too negative, but honestly, when you hear the history behind the People and Mud men and how Mud Men forced the People underground, the hate makes sense (and furthers the story). And technically, all the offhand comments of how humans do horrible things are true: you can’t deny that climate change isn’t our fault, or that we create weapons of mass destruction and use them, or that we aren’t violent. It was from a fairy perspective, and that was interesting. Personally, I liked it because it mocked humans: as a child, and learning about all the bad things that have happened, you kind of feel like, yeah, we are dumb.

I would recommend this for readers (and non-readers) as young as 9 – but teens may also like to read it and will probably better understand the themes (because as the first book of 8, the series’ themes matured as the readers matured). I had really great memories reading the books and waiting impatiently for the next installment; so this is one of my all time favorites! 🙂

~ Sarah

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