Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

I have seen this book (and its subsequent sequels) on bookstore shelves since I was a child. However, I never bothered to pick it up. I’m not sure why, since the cover is rather appealing. But, apparently the movie adaptation is being made, so I thought it was about time that I tried reading this series.

It is rather ironic that I picked this book up around Christmas (I finished it on Christmas Day, to be exact), since though the plot has nothing to do with Christmas, the book ends on Christmas Day. Very ironic. Anyway, I did find this book to be interesting…but also a bit concerning.

Release: 2001

Synopsis: (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.”

Non-Spoiler Review

First of all, I hate Artemis Fowl with a burning passion. He is a massive bully and his only excuse for torturing the fairy world (which is completely innocent and mostly good) is to get money and help his mother, both of which he could have gotten through more ethical way. The fantasy world is beautiful in this book (similar to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, in many ways) and I liked most of the fairy characters. But, all in all, I was expecting a book where I could support Artemis and learn that fairies are really dangerous…I did not. And don’t even get me started on the “this story is actually a case file on Artemis,” which made no sense as the perspective.

Let me paint a picture for you. Artemis threatens old women, kidnaps fairies, and nearly kills any fairy sent to save said kidnapped fairy. And yet the fairies are somehow presented as being attacking him. Of course they are the good guys. I was with them every step of the way, and when one of them compared Artemis to Professor Moriarty, it mirrored my own thoughts of him. But this book was missing Sherlock Holmes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading books from the perspective of the villain. One of Agatha Christie’s mysteries is from the perspective of the murderer and I loved it. Saying that, I didn’t like this book’s take on the villain narration for two reasons. First, the book is constantly trying to portray Artemis as being justified in his actions (he is not), like bringing his mother into the picture. Second, there is no Sherlock to Artemis’s Moriarty. Every villain needs a great advisory. I saw this a bit in the chapter with Mulch the dwarf (more about him in the spoiler section), but he was only in briefly before leaving. Thus, all the fairies felt like they were useless against Artemis and so nothing felt unpredictable. The fairies tried something and Artemis outsmarted them, rinse and repeat.

Saying that, I loved the fairy world. From Holly’s first chapter (she’s the fairy Artemis kidnaps, by the way), I loved learning about the mythical world, invisible from our own. It was reminiscent of Harry Potter, where a magical world hides within our real one. And most of the characters, while not super developed, were interesting, like Holly’s boss Root. I was rooting (pun intended) for them through the entire book, even if I knew they were probably doomed.

The book is extremely action-oriented, hardly pausing at all. Because of this, character development is sadly lacking. In fact, besides Artemis, I couldn’t get a clear view of any character’s motivation outside of the immediate danger or scene’s action. Because of that, a lot of the characters (especially the fairies) blended together. But I understand that this book is more centered around the plot instead of characters, and it is just my personal partiality towards characters that made me want to know more about them.

Next, we have the perspective. So, the story starts out with a prologue from an unknown narrator, telling us that s/he has compiled a case file of Artemis’s criminal activities, and that this is the carefully documented story we are going to read. The problem with this is that the moment the first chapter starts, we go into third person perspective, getting into character’s heads, which the narrator could not know. So, is this a story told about Artemis or a story from his perspective? Make up your mind! It makes no sense that a case file would have a character’s thoughts and dialogue!

And I rarely say this about the ending of a book, but it was so predictable!

Spoiler Review!

Artemis wins in the end…didn’t see that coming…

So, to recap the plot, Artemis gets an ancient fairy text, translates it, uses it to find the place where a fairy might be, captures the fairy Holly, fights off anyone sent to save her, gets both gold and a cure for his mother’s insanity, and then the story ends… Yes, that is the entire story.

I just don’t get why this book is so popular? First of all, it’s the story of a bully who abuses people using his cleverness and then his actions are justified. The fairies are completely in the right and yet the book paints them as being dangerous (you can see that from the Goodreads synopsis). But they aren’t! Even a massive troll can’t defeat Artemis’s Butler. Nothing is a challenge, or unpredictable!

And Mulch could have been utilized so much better. So Mulch is a dwarf thief who is brought in by the fairies to get past Artemis’s traps in his house. Mulch does, perfectly well, but then turns on the fairies and runs away. He was set up as being someone just as clever as Artemis himself, and upon his entrance into the story, I had hope that finally someone might mess with Artemis’s plans. But then he just left, dashing my hopes!

Conclusion

To sum up my review, the fantasy world was well-developed, Artemis is a horrible human being, and the bad guy wins. That’s about it…

Perhaps I missed the point of this book, but I see it as dangerous to young readers. As far as I know, this book is popular to children between ages 11-14. And the book pretty much encourages kidnapping (if it’s for a good cause), soliciting money for the ransom, and nearly killing dozens of fairies. But it’s okay, because Artemis is portrayed as cool because he’s smart and can beat up people the size of a pencil! I mean, really?

Am I missing the point of this book…I’m not sure.

Have you read this book, or it’s sequels? Did you like it? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

21 thoughts on “Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

  1. I hated Artemis with a fiery passion when I first started reading, and rooted for Holly. But halfway through the book, I loved them both and didn’t know whose side I was on. Colfer made Artemis the antihero, a villain who is also the protagonist. During the next seven books, Artemis becomes much less cold and calculating. I hope you read the next few, or at least give them a try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard that Artemis becomes much better as the series continues, but I just can’t bring myself to read it because I disliked him so much in the first book…but I may eventually try reading more of the books. I totally rooted for Holly too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed your review for this book! When I was younger I read all the books and absolutely devoured each one. I didn’t really see Artemis as the villain as you say, but now that I think about it, it’s true! I guess the beginning was conditioned to make Artemis like the hero and the fairies like the bad guys who just wouldn’t help him. I think what attracted me was a “kid genius” who also happens to have a bodyguard named Butler and decrypting the fairy language that’s found in most of the books. I see your point, though, and it was really refreshing to read your review. I loved Mulch! Almost forgot about him haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved Mulch too! He was such an interesting character. And yes, I love the concept of a child genius because it’s a paradox. And although I had a lot of issues with Artemis, if I read this as a child (during my diabolical stage of life), I would probably have devoured this series too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember liking these books as a child, but couldn’t tell you too much about them now. I believe that Artemis becomes less of a sociopath as the books go on. His character arc is bigger than the first book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspected something like that would happen, and I’m glad the series shows a redemption arc for Artemis. I’m only judging the first book. I think I probably would have liked this book a lot more as a child as well, when I enjoyed action a bit more.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I didn’t hear of the book. But from your review, It seems that the novel focuses on how to win and get what you want with wittness and smartness. In my humble opinion, it kind of shows the idea of competition or conflict because the fairies seem to be viewed as ‘others’ against the protagonist. And he must defeat them. The mythical world seems to be a completely different world from human society which draws readers’ attention and provides the protagonist with the resource he needs.

    If the novel viewed fairies as vivid individuals, focused more on the fairies’ perspectives and the protagonist got what he wanted by other means like communication, negociation or other methods, it would likely to be more thought-provoking. Anyway, There are various ways to acheive one’s goals.

    By the way, it is kind of understandable why this novel is so popular. Because teenagers this age like stimulation. And action-oriented novels with competition, attacks etc are appealing to them. I remember when I was a teenager I used to love playing online games where I could attack monsters.😅

    It seems to be unfair to comment without reading this novel myself…It’s just my opinion after reading your great review.😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! I would have loved if the book focused on Artemis and the fairies learning to work together with their very different abilities. It would have been so much more thought-provoking. Honestly, I never was a fan of action-oriented novels, but I have been known to play a few action video games! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I always love reading your comments because they make me think.

      Liked by 1 person

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