Of all the books I’ve ever owned, this has been on my TBR the absolute longest. I’ve had the first Artemis Fowl on my shelf since I was seven years old. And if the movie didn’t come out, which I thought was not terrible but didn’t really have the soul that made it the surefire franchise-starter it wanted to be, I maybe might still have not read it. Call me a narrow-minded kid. I guess the reason I wasn’t interested was hearing it was about a criminal mastermind in the title role, and the (forgive me) author’s name that I thought for the longest time was pronounced Ee-oyn, not Owen. But after the movie got significant dislike for detracting from the book, I decided to finally give it a peek.
So, the titular character Artemis is not even technically a teenager yet, but he has the intuition of an autistic savant. That might get in the way of feelings, but as long as he has a giant mansion, a butler named Butler for a bodyguard (and a father figure whenever his biological father’s away) and a book of the ways of beings secretly underneath our world for thousands of years, what could he possibly hope to gain with feelings? And he just got this book off of a fairy cast away from her people, who he tricked into thinking she’d be poisoned if she didn’t cough it up. He learns about these beings after months of deciphering, and he manages to construct a plan to rob them, like sadly a lot of people would want to do if they came across this information.
Elf Holly Short ends up unluckily caught in the trap, and Artemis has her trapped for ransom, all her gadgetry and magic having a loophole Artemis, Butler, and Butler’s daughter Juliet have exploited. And it’s not far after when the big showdown commences and we have the first chapter in a series of eight (with a second series underway at the moment) of the adventures of…well, you know the name of the big little criminal mastermind.
Having watched the movie first (it’s a sin in the book world, I know. Sue me in the afterlife) I was really curious about what the movie really didn’t get right that made it so hated. And after going through it, I think I know. They toned down, basically defanged, the title character. In the book he definitely is an evil worm and even though it’s fun in the book seeing a 12-year-old kid outsmart so many people, you begin to wonder if we’re supposed to be on his side. And when it comes to accomplices, Artemis wouldn’t have any if he didn’t have the investment for them. The movie’s Fowl is adaptable enough to make true friends. So anyway, this version, the original version of the story of Artemis Fowl’s first adventure, was one where I enjoyed myself. Especially compared to another book I’m trying to read that I just don’t connect with on any level whatsoever.
I realized as I read that there’s a big reason why I just never read this as a kid; the chapters are crazy long. I tend to prefer long chapters over short ones, but when you reach between 30-50 pages per one, and you’re a reader who likes to stop when a chapter’s over, it can be a little fatiguing. The book is definitely fast-paced, so readers who don’t mind the chapter thing won’t find it one they’ll give up on. However, by the time the third act comes into play, I realized so much was happening over this one mission, this one siege, and the problem I had with that was its focus on being straightforward without some breaks made it seem repetitive, one-note as the hostage standoff kept happening, especially with more and more points of view that pop up to slow the pace whereas four viewpoints is almost always more than enough in general.
Still, this is a book that does manage to grip you. It does not clog you with exposition and does not introduce a million characters before we know anything about this world or any reason to care about them. That’s a trap too many books fall under. We are introduced to everyone gradually, and as Artemis prepares for his big plan, we are excited to see if he accomplishes it and what he’ll do if something goes wrong.
In the end, Artemis Fowl’s okay. Its intimidatingly long chapters and having most of the book focus on just one thing don’t help it, but The New York Post was right in their review saying this is an adventure for any age group. For those of us like me who haven’t read the series yet to see how future adventures play out, let’s hope Artemis learns to like lollipops at least. That’s the most inexcusable crime of them all.
If you like this, I’d try the Percy Jackson books, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
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