Monday, July 28, 2014

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer - mini review

Artemis Fowl 
by Eoin Colfer

Publisher: Viking Press
Format: paperback and ebook
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 277

Genre: Children's science fiction fantasy
Source: purchased

Summary from Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories—they're dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.

I read Artemis Fowl when it first came out and enjoyed it enough that I read the next two, but at some point I lost the thread and forgot to keep picking them up. Just recently, my son got interested in the book so I ended up buying a new copy for him. He loved it so much that I pulled my copy back out to re-read it. Now we both need the rest of them.

Artemis Fowl II is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind who has basically been left in charge of his family estate, their hereditary criminal empire and his own life. His father is missing, presumed dead and his mother has not coped with that at all well. This leaves Butler, his bodyguard/mentor/butler as Artemis's only company/companion. It is an odd relationship. (Well, actually there is also Juliet, who takes care of Artemis's mother, but that relationship seems pretty detached.)   

The story involves a somewhat science fiction future level of technology combined with a fully fledged fantasy world with elves, trolls, gnomes, dwarves (Mulch was the source of much amusement for my son) - all re-imagined in new and interesting ways - especially if you happen to be a pre-teen boy.

I won't say much more about the plot - the book had been out for quite a while now so there are many other sources for that kind of info. It's a pretty good story, nicely engaging (even for an adult) and it kept my son totally engrossed until he had finished reading the whole thing. He read several bits out loud to me as well. Definitely a winner for my son. I find that I too would like to finish the series now that all of the books are out.

Really the only reason that I am writing this 'review' is that when my son picked up the book and expressed interest, my husband expressed reservations. He was concerned that the title character is cited as a criminal mastermind / evil genius and was worried that the book would promote inappropriate behaviors or endorse criminal/evil actions. Basically he was worried that it would contain a story that followed the sort of downward trend that we have seen in children's cartoons - lots of violence, protagonist centered morality, and ugliness (in action not looks) for the sake of shock value.

Having re-read the book and based on my vague memories of the next two, I can affirm he need not fear. There is much greater depth to Artemis's behaviors and actions - he is no cartoon 2-D villain. Plus, the concepts of good and evil, as well as confronting the costs of ones behavior are all themes in the book. Even criminal masterminds can have coming of age stories, right ?

I think this counts as a four and a half or possibly even five claw book for my son. It was a solid four claw for me as well.  We both look forward to the next books.        

BTW - you want the hard-copies of these books -  along the bottom of the pages are a string of symbols - these are in Gnommish, the language that Artemis translates in the story - and they translate into a message. You can use the deciphered sections from the book's text to figure out the substitution cipher. The covers of the first editions also have a coded message (see above). The code is not included in the Kindle edition, so you miss out that part of the fun.  

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