Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl

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Rank: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl was written by Eoin Colfer and published in 2001. It has been translated into 40 languages and was named a Puffin Modern Classic.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Fantastic storytelling
  • Complex worldbuilding
  • Well-developed and intriguing characters

Cons

  • The translation from Gnommish to perfectly rhymed English is unrealistic.

Review

Storytelling

Eoin Colfer knows how to tell a story. This story is told in third person omniscient, but focuses primarily on the characters Artemis and Holly. Keeping it omniscient is an effective choice because it reveals the way the characters think. If first person point of view had been used, so much of the narrative voice would have been lost.

Colfer’s book has a strong connection to setting. Whether it is a wedding party in Italy, a meeting with a contact in Ho Chi Minh City, or Fowl Manor in Ireland, Colfer makes sure the story is not existing in blank space.

He does his research. He lives in Ireland and uses Ireland as the main setting for his story, but does not let that stop him from using places he is less familiar with and doing it well.

For example, he is specific.

“They [Artemis and Butler] were sitting outside a curbside cafe on Dong Khai Street, watching the local teenagers circle the square on mopeds.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The language he uses also contributes to his storytelling. Rather than saying that Artemis’s bodyguard Butler is armed and dangerous, Colfer cleverly uses a detailed list.

“…a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster. two shrike-throwing knives in his boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch, and three stun grenades in various pockets.”

Artemis Fowl to Nguyen in the book Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This list not only makes Butler seem even more dangerous, it also paints a precise picture. Even not knowing what the items look like does not take away from the sense that Butler is a skilled bodyguard with an in-depth knowledge of weaponry.

I had to look up most of these items to know what they looked like, but I don’t think that is a problem because Colfer’s imaginative storytelling compelled me to do so.

Garrotte wire, for example, is used for strangulation.

There are so many advanced vocabulary words in this book that Vocabulary.com has a list of difficult words just for Artemis Fowl. I believe that this does not take away from the storytelling, because Colfer uses precise words that convey a specific meaning.

World-building

The world-building is phenomenal. Colfer bases it partially on Irish fairy tales, but with a sci-fi twist.

LEPrecon basically refers to police officers and their commanders in the fairy world. Get it? Leprechaun? The LEP stands for Lower Elements police.

Like in Irish mythology, “fairy” is a catch-all term that includes elves, pixies, dwarfs, trolls, etc.

Fairies live underground and use magma flows and pods to reach the surface. There is technology such as iris-cams and finger darts.

The finger darts are hilarious. They meld to slip on, look exactly like your finger, and do not feel unusual. This has led to the incapacitation of some officers who forgot they were wearing them and picked their nose, setting off the dart.

Character Development

Colfer’s strong point is definitely his characters.

Artemis Fowl is not your ordinary twelve-year-old. He’s a criminal mastermind. One who looks as pale as a vampire in sunlight because of long periods of time spent in front of a computer, hiding away indoors.

Artemis exhibits both the qualities of a child and an adult. According to Colfer,

“He still retained a childlike belief in magic, tempered by an adult determination to exploit it.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

When he does something out of character, his own thoughts let readers know that it is unusual. For instance, he makes a joke twice (not very funny ones because he is unpracticed) and it is more amusing in that he had the inclination toward a sense of humor for once. He even notes this himself.

Butler is loyal to Artemis, but occasionally is disapproving of Artemis’s more dangerous plans, especially when he puts Butler’s sister Juliet in danger.

Colfer doesn’t just tell us Butler is dangerous, he shows it. The “man mountain” carries an assortment of weapons and demonstrates his martial prowess against shielded fairies. Even he can be caught off guard – but those times are comparatively few.

Holly Short is stubborn and resentful. She is a rule-breaker with both a temper and a compassionate side.

Her superior Commander Root is a short-tempered fairy who cares for his officers and despite being blatantly rude and domineering toward them.

Foaly is a centaur who is witty and intelligent. He is indispensible to the LEPrecon team because he rigged up a lot of their technology and is basically the resident genius on the team, so no matter how many snarky remarks he makes, Commander Root can’t afford to fire him.

There are an assortment of other characters who are well-developed and intriguing, but I won’t go into more detail here. Read the book for yourself

A side note

By the way, this is completely out of context, but my favorite line in the entire book is this:

“I don’t like lollipops.”

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

It just made me crack up. To see why, read the book.

Translation Issues

My only complaint in this book is that when Artemis translates the Book that is written in Gnommish, it becomes perfectly rhymed English.

Anyone who has ever tried to translate anything from one language to another knows that something is lost in translation, and this is especially true of poetry.

Words that rhyme in one language rarely do in another. And why would a language whose closest kin is Egyptian show such remarkable resemblance to English by being translated into perfectly rhymed poetry?

Another thing is he had Gnommish written on the bottom of the pages that could be translated letter by letter with English. That was completely different from the way it was described in writing, where it was like an almost unbreakable code.

Conclusion

I would recommend this book both for a young adult audience and for adults.

If you like Fantasy or Sci-fi, or have a penchant for fairy tales, or just want to be immersed in a good story, I fully recommend this book.

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