I can’t remember exactly what made me pick this book up and read it. I read it in my early teens, I know that, but I can’t remember why. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book—a really good book—I just can’t remember what about it caught my attention. The cover of the book is gold and pretty simple. There are no dragons on it (or in it) so it didn’t trip my radar. I’m thinking that my sister, Beckie, shoved it in my face and told me to read it. With the main character being a 12-year-old criminal mastermind going against fairies, it’s one of the books she forced on me that I continued to read.
The book is treated as a case file, with a prologue discussing the main character’s psychological profile (or lack thereof), and it ends with an epilogue warning against further contact with one Artemis Fowl. The beginning of the actual story is a little on the slow side. You’re introduced to the vampire-like Artemis Fowl in India, following a lead to a miracle healer of sorts. The healer turns out to be a degenerate pixie, outcast from the fairy lands, earning her next drink by healing minor illnesses with her magic. Artemis tricks her into letting him photograph her fairy book, a book of rules, guidelines, and traditions of the fairy folk, then returns home to translate the hieroglyphics. You learn that his father, Artemis Fowl Sr., has disappeared off the coast of Russia, presumed dead, though Artemis Jr. continues to look for him. You also learn that his mother, Angeline, went insane at the news of her husband’s presumed death, leaving Artemis himself essentially an orphan. Angeline is taken care of by Juliet, Butler’s younger sister, while Artemis himself is escorted, protected, and aided by the deadly assassin/body guard known only as Butler.
As Artemis works on decoding the fairy book, the narrative moves below the Earth’s crust to where the fairies had taken refuge after man grew strong enough to take over the upper lands. Here you meet Holly Short, an elf who works for the LEP, recon division. Yes, as it turns out, leprechauns are the fairy versions of police known as LEPrecons. Holly is the first female fairy to ever enter the LEPrecon ranks, and as such, is held to a higher standard than the other LEPrecons by Commander Root. After giving her a really hard time about being a minute late, Root sends her on a recon mission to locate a rampaging troll in Italy. She jumps at the opportunity, and Foaly, the beyond tech-savvy centaur, sends her above ground after it. She finds the troll outside of a restaurant and is commanded not to engage the beast. But when the troll enters the restaurant and a child calls for help, Holly enters the fray and single handedly puts the creature out of commission. Unfortunately, she hadn’t performed the fairy ritual for renewing her magic, and is unable to remain invisible during the fight. The fairies manage to wipe the humans’ memories MIB style, but Holly is still in trouble for endangering the People like that. Root sends her to perform the ritual, and forbids her from returning until her magic is fully renewed.
By this time, Artemis has translated and essentially memorized the fairy book and has been staking out multiple sites where the renewing ritual can be performed. This is how he and Butler manage to find and capture Holly. They take her back to Fowl Manor and imprison her in a specially crafted cell, using the tricks from the book to keep the elf from using her Mesmer (hypnotism) on them and forcing them to release her. Root and Foaly both go a bit nuts when they discover Holly has been captured, and Root returns to the field to make sure that the elf is returned safe and whole. Artemis buys some time by planting Holly’s locator on an abandoned oil rig, luring Root to the rig, then blowing it up to make a point to the People.
Foaly locates Fowl Manor, and Root puts a time bubble around the perimeter to buy the People time while they negotiate with the boy. Artemis naturally demands the gold ransomed that is reserved for scenarios such as this, and Root is naturally determined not to cater to his demands. Since the People are unable to enter human dwellings without an invitation lest they lose their powers, Root decides to go a different route. He makes a deal with the kleptomaniac dwarf, Mulch, who had lost his magic decades ago from breaking and entering, and the dwarf agrees to eat through the foundation of the house and free Holly. Holly, meanwhile, is working on her own plan of escape. She had been in the middle of the renewing ritual when she had been taken. The renewing ritual dictated taking a seed from an ancient tree and planting it in a different spot, encouraging nature to spread and grow and thus regenerating the fairies’ powers. She had stashed an acorn in her boot during Artemis’s attack, and she was determined to plant it and renew her magic. She uses the metal bed frame to start smashing through the soft cement to reach the dirt beneath. Foaly hacks into the Fowl security system and manages to loop the tape reels, meaning to buy Mulch time but also buying Holly herself some much needed time. Artemis catches the loop almost too late and sends Butler to take care of Mulch and Juliet to stop Holly. Both fail miserably. Mulch discovers the safe where Artemis hid his copy of the fairy book, and ejects his digested dirt into Butler’s face. The force of the ejection throws the large man back into the opposite wall, giving the dwarf the chance to escape. Holly tricks Juliet into taking off her mirrored sunglasses and uses the Mesmer to make the girl believe she was watching pro-wrestling in the cell, and escapes through the open door. Artemis tries to step in to stop her, but she sends him back on his rear, embarrassing him, and goes to wreak havoc in the house, planning on continuing until the boy allows her to leave. Upon finding Holly free, Mulch escapes back through his tunnel and fakes his own death to avoid going back to jail.
Disappointed in Root’s tactics, the fairy command replaces the LEP commander on the field. His replacement, an annoying, backstabbing fairy named Cudgeon, decides to send the troll that Holly had fought earlier into Fowl Manor to kills the Fowls. Artemis had “mistakenly” granted the fairies access to the house upon his death, and Cudgeon meant to make that death premature so that they could rescue Holly. Foaly manages to warn Holly of the incoming troll, but not before it is shot through the door. Butler had just dragged Juliet from Holly’s cell when the troll entered, and he tried to fight the troll to keep him away from the still-Mesmered Juliet. Despite all of Butler’s intense combat training, the troll pulverizes and basically kills him, then moves to eat Juliet. Basically kills him. Never one to let an innocent get hurt, Holly flies in and attacks the troll with her magic fully juiced. The troll pulverizes her, too, sending her careening into the wall behind one of the Fowl tapestries. His only mistake was putting her within reach of Butler. As her magic begins healing her, Holly knows that she would never be able to keep the troll from eating Juliet with her damaged LEP gear, so she reaches over and heals Butler first. Butler is surprised to find himself still alive, knowing the wounds he’d received were all fatal, but he isn’t about to let his little sister get hurt. He arms himself with the nearby medieval armor and sword and adjusts his battle tactics to those of fighting a wild animal. The LEP were able to watch the battle through Holly’s lens cam, and it is stated in the book that Butler’s tactics against the troll were later used in LEP training rooms. Butler is about to kill the troll when Holly stops him, claiming his life debt to spare the troll’s life. Butler spares the troll and throws it out of the mansion grimly.
Holly had sealed Artemis in his room, and the boy had watched the entire fight in relative safety. Once Butler had dispatched the threat, Artemis hailed the reinstated Commander Root and secured a promise of payment. Butler frees him from his room, and the fairies dutifully pay Artemis his ransom. Even Holly is awed by the amount of gold Artemis is given, and, inspired by her awe, Artemis strikes a deal with the elf. The fairies are surprised and delighted when Holly emerges from the house with half the gold that had been paid, but they quickly retreat below ground. Rightly predicting that the fairies would use their bio-bomb on Fowl Manor, a bomb that wipes out all life within the time stop, Artemis uses a sleeping drug on himself, Butler, and Juliet to free them from the time-stop. Thinking they had out-smarted the child, the fairies go in after the bomb detonated to retrieve the rest of the gold, but find that they can’t because Artemis is still alive. The fairies are forced to admit that their gold is lost and return to their refuge beneath the crust. When Artemis and Butler wake up the next morning, Butler lectures Artemis on his endangerment of their lives, but Artemis calmly explains away Butler’s lecture, and points out that they’re all still alive. Then Angeline Fowl wakes up and comes downstairs for the first time in months, whole and mentally stable, and you know that Artemis paid Holly to heal her.
Artemis Fowl is a great book because it takes a new approach to the fairy people, modernizing them without abandoning the traditional lore. The back and forth tactics are enjoyable, and the fairy lore and rules featured in the book are fascinating.
Author: Eoin Colfer
Recommended Reading Age: 12+
Favorite Character: Foaly, because he’s a smart aleck computer genius and a centaur. And he wears an aluminum foil hat to keep the humans from scanning his brain.
Favorite Scene: When Mulch releases his digested dirt at Butler.
Favorite Quote: “Holmes, Moriarty, they both look the same with the flesh scorched off their skulls.”
Should I Read This?: 8. Absolutely
Colfer, Eoin. Artemis Fowl, New York: Scholastic Inc., 2001.