Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer was one of those books I’d heard of, but knew nothing about. I knew it was a popular series and…that was about it. If I had had to guess, I would have assumed it had some relation to Greek mythology, maybe something about warriors and hunting. I mean, toss together the Greek goddess of the hunt and a bird, what are you likely to get?
An evil child genius, as it turns out. I never did find a connection to Greek mythology (or figure out why the main character, especially a male one, is named after a Greek goddess), and no birds. Artemis Fowl is a very wealthy twelve-year-old bent on conquering the world–or at least making even more money off of it–and isn’t scrupulous about how he does it. His new scheme is to exploit fairies–a whole new market!
I really enjoy the concept of the fairies. There’s a whole community, mostly living underground, hiding their existence from humans. They have plenty of the magical and mystical powers that fairies traditionally have, but in other ways they’re treated as simply another intelligent species that sprang up on the Earth the same as humans. I suppose that makes sense–why should fairies consider themselves myserious and otherworldly, after all? I think you can consider this a fantasy, but in some ways it feels more like science fiction.
So I liked the idea of the fairies…but somehow I couldn’t build up much interest in the fairies as individuals. I don’t know why, and this may be totally my thing and not relevant to someone else. Artemis’ scheme is to kidnap a fairy, and he does–Holly Short, a member of the fairy police force. I feel as though I should like her more than I do–she’s a tough female character trying to prove her worth in a male profession. Put that way, she has plenty in common with Tamora Pierce’s Alanna, who has to be in my top ten favorite characters ever. But maybe Holly felt too much like a stereotype–fine for her type, but too much a type and not an individual.
Holly’s boss (whose name I can’t remember or find!) feels even more like a stereotype: the crusty old chief with a gruff exterior and a secret heart of gold. He’s like Perry White, minus the “Great Caesar’s ghost!” I did enjoy Mulch, a rather creative criminal, and Foaly, a technical genius centaur with a paranoia that humans are spying on him. But even they seemed like they should be more interesting than they were.
I liked the human characters better, although they were probably types too. Artemis is pretty interesting. Evil child geniuses are fun, and Colfer played a bit with the bizarre combination of a brilliant intellect in someone who really is still twelve. There was also some nice ambiguity about how evil Artemis actually is. Ruthless, definitely, but it wasn’t always clear whether his motivation truly was profit, or something more noble. I like the grayness.
I also liked Butler, Artemis’ faithful sidekick and the muscle of the team. The Butler family has been serving the Fowl family for centuries, and may be the origin of the term “butler.” That’s fun. Butler is enormously proficient at fighting, fiercely loyal to Artemis…but once in a while we get a glimpse that he can think for himself too. Again, I like the grayness.
So I was up and down about the characters. The plot was pretty good, although since it hinged on Holly’s kidnapping, it probably would have worked better if I had cared about her more. But it was an enjoyable book, and I can see how someone else who connected better with the characters would really like it. For myself, I’m glad that now I know what it’s about (no Greek goddesses–check) and I might pick up the next book eventually, though I haven’t rushed to get it. But maybe some time, especially to see if the characters develop more as the series goes on.
Anyone else care to share an opinion? 🙂 I’d love to hear it!
Author’s site: http://www.artemisfowl.com/