I love friends that send me books they think I'll like. That's how I
was introduced to Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, a book that put a nearly permanent ear-to-ear grin on my face.
The main character, a boy named Artemis, is the greatest criminal mastermind that has ever lived. Now the Fowls have been criminals for centuries -- pirates, forgers, gunrunners, robbers, con men, etc. -- but Artemis is something special. He's as cool as a cucumber, with an authority well beyond his 12 years. He has a commanding persona that's as smooth as China silk and is merciless in achieving his goals.
Is he pure evil? No, he has a conscience -- not that he lets that get in the way of what he wants. In a back alley in Saigon, Artemis and his manservant Butler (deadly hand-to-hand fighter, weapons expert, driver, medic, cook, and Artemis's constant and only companion) find what they've being searching the world for: a real live fairy. In this case, an alcohol-addicted fairy.
A deal is struck. In exchange for her life, the sprite will turn over a very important book. The Book is the key to all the secrets of the magic world: the fairies' laws, regulations and secrets. It is the Bible of the fairies.
The translation of the Book would take the work of a genius. Obtaining the Book itself would be the achievement of the century! But for Artemis Fowl, it is merely the first step in a bigger plan, one that will restore his family's fortune. He would be the first human to actually succeed in stealing fairy gold -- one ton of fairy gold to be exact! It's
a bold, villainous, ambitious, audacious and rude plan (I need to mention again that Artemis is only 12 years old). But mixing crime and magic proves to be a dangerous matter, and the People (fairies) guard their gold fiercely.
The stronghold of the People is far underground, far away from
the Mud People (the fairy name for humankind). It's a human-free zone, and the People intend to keep it that way. Their borders and the places they walk have been hidden from mankind for centuries. Human nature being what it is, if discovered, they would be hunted down and killed.
Captain Holly Short is an elf as well as a cop, a Leprechaun. More accurately, Holly is a member of the LEPrecon, the Lower Elements Police -- a formidable military force with a long, distinguished history. Their magic has been heightened by highly advanced technology, and Holly carries enough firepower to level a mountain.
LEPrecon is a dangerous and unforgiving assignment, and Holly already has one disaster on her record. But at the moment of her dismissal, she is the wrong elf in the wrong place at the wrong time. Four hundred pounds of enraged muscle have broken onto the surface in the form of an angry berserker troll -- a disaster in the making. The death toll in the human population would be high, and the consequences to the People would be devastating: discovery. Holly has to mount a retrieval mission, but she has neglected her rituals; and at the moment she will need it the most, her magic will come up short. Before the night is over, events will be set in motion that will place Holly in the sights of the notorious Artemis Fowl.
Colfer's novel was a joy to read. It was smart, fun, adventurous and full of humor. (Jim Killen)
He can tell a story...Colfer offers some nice riffs in terms of creating a magical subworld of trolls, dwarfs and centaurs as well as some fun tech stuff.
New York Times Book Review
Colfer has done enormously, explosively well.
It's smart, it's funny, and even contains some nuggets of wisdom about the
Family Life Magazine
Action-packed, it's perfect for long, lazy summer days.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Colfer's (Benny and Omar) crime caper fantasy, the first in a series, starts off with a slam-bang premise: anti-hero Artemis Fowl is a boy-genius last in line of a legendary crime family teetering on the brink of destruction. With the assistance of his bodyguard, Butler, he masterminds his plan to regain the Fowls' former glory: capture a fairy and hold her ransom for the legendary fairy gold. However, his feisty mark, Holly, turns out to be a member of the "LEPrecon, an elite branch of the Lower Elements Police," so a wisecracking team of satyrs, trolls, dwarfs and fellow fairies set out to rescue her. Despite numerous clever gadgets and an innovative take on traditional fairy lore, the author falls short of the bar. The rapid-fire dialogue may work as a screenplay with the aid of visual effects but, on the page, it often falls flat. The narrative hops from character to character, so readers intrigued by Artemis's wily, autocratic personality have to kill a good deal of time with the relatively bland Holly and her cohorts, and the villain/hero anticlimactically achieves his final escape by popping some sleeping pills (it renders him invulnerable to the fairy time-stop). Technology buffs may appreciate the imaginative fairy-world inventions and action-lovers will get some kicks, but the series is no classic in the making. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old boy with a missing father, a sick mother, a loyal servant...and a world-class criminal mind with millions of dollars at his disposal. So if he decides to go after fairy gold, he's got a good shot at finding it. But when he kidnaps a LEPrecon, he's in more trouble than he knows. Fairies can be nasty critters, and the fate of both worlds hangs on this showdown! While the summary suggests this might be Harry Potter if the main character were Draco Malfoy, it's not quite the same thing. The author's tongue is firmly in his cheek, and the novel is amusing without quite engaging the emotions. But it's fun to watch Artemis outsmart everyone around him, and middle school readers are sure to enjoy it. KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Hyperion, 396p., Ages 12 to 15.
The title character is a genius, a criminal mastermind and a millionairenot bad for a twelve-year-old. Artemis, scion of a famous crime family, has a cunning plan to recoup his family's fortunes, which suffered from a bad business deal by his now-deceased father. Since he's no ordinary boy, it's no ordinary planhe wants to kidnap and ransom a fairy, after high-tech preparations that would make James Bond nod approvingly. What Artemis doesn't know is that the LEPrecon Unit is no slouch when it comes to high-tech rescue. Thankfully, Colfer mixes in times of quiet reflection with the full-throttle actioneven giving Artemis a chance to redeem himself. The author jabs gently at action-adventure clichésthe old officer who resents technological advances, the desk jockey who gets on everyone's nerves but comes through in the end, the female soldier who has to prove herself. It is a work that will inevitably draw comparisons to the "Harry Potter" series, with its emphasis on the existence of a magic world. But Artemis Fowl is no copycat. It's an original. Read it out loud to your kids, and the whole family will end up missing normal bedtimes. Reviewer: Donna Freedman
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl took over his family's evil criminal empire after his father's disappearance and his mother's nervous breakdown. Artemis and his trusty sidekick, Butler, kidnap a fairy for fairy gold, unaware that this fairy is not the old-fashioned kind. Artemis finds himself up against the thoroughly modern LEPrecon, an armed and dangerous branch of the Lower Elements Police led by Commander Root, who will do anything to ensure Captain Holly Short's safe return. The strength of this book is in the creation of a new underground world peopled by progressive fairies, goblins, trolls, and other fantastical creatures. Sly in tone with generous dollops of humor, this story does not shy away from difficult topics. One scene is violent, describing a troll attacking Butler and his younger sister. The pat endingButler is healed by the same fairy that he held hostage, Artemis's mother starts living her life again, and Artemis gets to keep the fairy goldseems a bit much, but the epilogue hints at Artemis's deviousness and sets up sequels by referring to future encounters with LEPrecon Captain Holly Short. This story has lots of action, but ultimately, interesting gadgets and nefarious plots do not compensate for an unsympathetic main character. The LEPrecon and those living underground are fascinating and worthy of their own books. Despite marketing claims, this book is no Harry Potter, but as fantasy adventures go, it should have a wide following among middle schoolers, especially boys. More than a fantasy, it is the story that might result if James Bond were mixed with legends and the folklore of fairies, trolls, and goblins. Like the Potter books, it might appeal toteens of all ages. Author Colfer is an elementary school teacher in Ireland, where his previous novel was a best-seller. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Hyperion/Disney, 279p, $16.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Susan Smith SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Colfer is already well known in Britain for his popular children's books. The quirky characters and delightful humor of his latest work will undoubtedly delight American readers as well. Artemis Fowl, 12-year-old criminal mastermind and consummate self-server, is out to win fame and restock the dwindling family fortune. The wealthy Fowls, underworld moguls, have fallen on hard times with the disappearance of Artemis's father and the questionable sanity of his depressed mother. Having discovered the true existence of fairies and their magic, Artemis foments a wicked plot to steal their gold. Coercing a fairy on the skids to show him her book of magic, he manages to crack the code and acquaint himself with fairy magic and technology. But Artemis realizes that he needs more bargaining power, so he kidnaps the fairy, Capt. Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance) Unit, intending to ransom her for the gold. As the book progresses, readers suspect that this child prodigy is perhaps not so foul as he seems, nor are the good fairies quite so wonderful after all. Fun to read, full of action and humor, this is recommended for all public libraries and to readers of all ages. [The publisher, jointly with Hyperion Books for Children, is promoting this to the young and adult fans of Harry Potter. Ed.] Jennifer Baker, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old genius Artemis Fowl decides to reinvigorate his family fortunes by kidnapping a fairy and demanding its gold. Having obtained and decoded the Book, a tome containing all of the fairies' secrets, Artemis captures an elf named Holly Short and holds her captive at his family mansion in Ireland. However, he hasn't reckoned on the resources and cunning of the LEPrecon Unit, an elite branch of the fairy police force, whose members will stop at nothing to rescue Captain Short. It seems that the wicked ways of the Mud People (humans) have driven most of the magical creatures underground, where a gritty, urban fairy civilization is flourishing. The fairy characters are mouthy and eccentric, but Artemis is too stiff and enigmatic to be interesting; the story bogs down when the focus is on him. The combination of choppy sentences and ornate language will appeal to some readers, although not necessarily to Harry Potter fans; the emphasis here is more on action (some of it gory), technology, and deadpan humor than on magic, and only one character (Artemis) is a child.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A new thriller fairy tale will grab your interest, no matter what your age."--The New York Post
"Kids will absolutely love it."--Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America
Read an Excerpt
By now, you must have guessed just how far Artemis Fowl was prepared to go in order to achieve his goal. But what exactly was this goal? What outlandish scheme would involve the blackmailing of an alcohol-addicted sprite? The answer was gold.
Artemis's search had begun two years previously when he first became interested in surfing the Internet. He quickly found the more arcane sites: alien abduction, UFO sightings, and the supernatural. But most specifically the existence of the People.
Trawling through gigabytes of data, he found hundreds of references to fairies from nearly every country in the world. Each civilization had its own term for the People, but they were undoubtedly members of the same hidden family. Several stories mentioned a Book carried by each fairy. It was their Bible, containing, as it allegedly did, the history of their race and the commandments that governed their extended lives. Of course, this book was written in Gnommish, the fairy language, and would be of no use to any human.
Artemis believed that with today's technology the Book could be translated. And with this translation you could begin to exploit a whole new group of creatures.
Know thine enemy was Artemis's motto, so he immersed himself in the lore of the People until he had compiled a huge database on their characteristics. But it wasn't enough. So Artemis put out a call on the Web: Irish businessman will pay large amount of U.S. dollars to meet a fairy, sprite, leprechaun, pixie. The responses had been mostly fraudulent, but Ho Chi Minh City had finally paid off.
Artemis was perhaps the only person alive who could take full advantage of his recent acquisition. He still retained a childlike belief in magic, tempered by an adult determination to exploit it. If there was anybody capable of relieving the fairies of some of their magical gold, it was Artemis Fowl the Second.
It was early morning before they reached Fowl Manor. Artemis was anxious to bring up the file on his computer, but first he decided to call in on Mother.
Angeline Fowl was bedridden. She had been since her husband's disappearance. Nervous tension, the physicians said. Nothing for it but rest and sleeping pills. That was almost a year ago.
Butler's little sister, Juliet, was sitting at the foot of the stairs. Her gaze was boring a hole in the wall. Even the glitter mascara couldn't soften her expression. Artemis had seen that look already, just before Juliet had suplexed a particularly impudent pizza boy. The suplex, Artemis gathered, was a wrestling move. An unusual obsession for a teenage girl. But then again she was, after all, a
Juliet straightened hurriedly. "My own fault, Artemis. Apparently I left a gap in the curtains. Mrs. Fowl couldn't sleep."
"Hmm," muttered Artemis, scaling the oak staircase slowly.
He worried about his mother's condition. She hadn't seen the light of day in a long time now. Then again, should she miraculously recover, emerging revitalized from her bedchamber, it would signal the end of Artemis's own extraordinary freedom. It would be back off to school, and no more spearheading criminal enterprises for you, my boy.
He knocked gently on the arched double doors.
"Mother? Are you awake?"
Something smashed against the other side of the door. It sounded expensive.
"Of course I'm awake! How can I sleep in this blinding glare?"
Artemis ventured inside. An antique four-poster bed threw shadowy spires in the darkness, and a pale sliver of light poked through a gap in the velvet curtains. Angeline Fowl sat hunched on the bed, her pale limbs glowing white in the gloom.
"Artemis, darling. Where have you been?"
Artemis sighed. She recognized him. That was a
"School trip, Mother. Skiing in Austria."
"Ah, skiing," crooned Angeline. "How I miss it. Maybe when your father returns."
Artemis felt a lump in his throat. Most uncharacteristic.
"Yes. Perhaps when Father returns."
"Darling, could you close those wretched curtains? The light is intolerable."
"Of course, Mother."
Artemis felt his way across the room, wary of the low-level clothes chests scattered around the floor. Finally his fingers curled around the velvet drapes. For a moment he was tempted to throw them wide open, then he sighed and closed the gap.
"Thank you, darling. By the way, we really have to get rid of that maid. She is good for absolutely nothing."
Artemis held his tongue. Juliet had been a hardworking and loyal member of the Fowl household for the past three years. Time to use Mother's absentmindedness to his advantage.
"You're right of course, Mother. I've been meaning to do it for some time. Butler has a sister I believe would be perfect for the position. I think I've mentioned her. Juliet?"
Angeline frowned. "Juliet? Yes, the name does seem familiar. Well, anyone would be better than that silly girl we have now. When can she start?"
"Straight away. I'll have Butler fetch her from the lodge."
"You're a good boy, Artemis. Now, give Mummy a hug."
Artemis stepped into the shadowy folds of his mother's robe. She smelled perfumed, like petals in water. But her arms were cold and weak.
"Oh, darling," she whispered, and the sound sent goose bumps popping down Artemis's neck. "I hear things. At night. They crawl along the pillows and into my ears."
Artemis felt that lump in his throat again.
"Perhaps we should open the curtains, Mother."
"No," his mother sobbed, releasing him from her grasp. "No. Because then I could see them, too."
But it was no use. Angeline was gone. She crawled to the far corner of the bed, pulling the quilt under her chin.
"Send the new girl."
"Send her with cucumber slices and water."
Angeline glared at him with crafty eyes. "And stop calling me Mother. I don't know who you are, but you're certainly not my little Arty."
Artemis blinked back a few rebellious tears. "Of course. Sorry, Moth - Sorry."
"Hmmm. Don't come back here again, or I'll have my husband take care of you. He's a very important man, you know."
"Very well, Mrs Fowl. This is the last you'll see of me."
"It had better be." Angeline froze suddenly. "Do you hear them?"
Artemis shook his head. "No. I don't hear any - "
"They're coming for me. They're everywhere."
Angeline dived for cover beneath the bedclothes. Artemis could still hear her terrified sobs as he descended the marble staircase.
The Book was proving far more stubborn than Artemis had anticipated. It seemed to be almost actively resisting him. No matter which program he ran it through, the computer came up blank.
Artemis hardcopied every page, tacking them to the walls of his study. Sometimes it helped to have things on paper. The script was like nothing he'd seen before, and yet it was strangely familiar. Obviously a mixture of symbolic and character-based language, the text meandered around the page in no apparent order.
What the program needed was some frame of reference, some central point on which to build. He separated all the characters and ran comparisons with English, Chinese, Greek, Arabic, and with Cyrillic texts, even with Ogham. Nothing.
Moody with frustration, Artemis sent Juliet scurrying when she interrupted with sandwiches, and moved on to symbols. The most frequently recurring pictogram was a small male figure. Male, he presumed, though with the limited knowledge of the fairy anatomy he supposed it could be female. A thought struck him. Artemis opened the ancient languages file on his Power Translator and selected Egyptian.
At last. A hit. The male symbol was remarkably similar to the Anubis god representation on Tutankhamen's inner-chamber hieroglyphics. This was consistent with his other findings. The first written human stories were about fairies, suggesting that their civilization predated man's own. It would seem that the Egyptians had simply adapted an existing scripture to suit their needs.
There were other resemblances. But the characters were just dissimilar enough to slip through the computer's net. This would have to be done manually. Each Gnommish figure had to be enlarged, printed, and then compared with the hieroglyphs.
Artemis felt the excitement of success thumping inside his rib cage. Almost every fairy pictogram or letter had an Egyptian counterpart. Most were universal, such as the sun or birds. But some seemed exclusively supernatural and had to be tailored to fit. The Anubis figure, for example, would make no sense as a dog god, so Artemis altered it to read king of the fairies.
By midnight, Artemis had successfully fed his findings into the Macintosh. All he had to do now was press Decode. He did so. What emerged was a long, intricate string of meaningless gibberish.
A normal child would have abandoned the task long since. The average adult would probably have been reduced to slapping the keyboard. But not Artemis. This book was testing him, and he would not allow it to win.
The letters were right, he was certain of it. It was just the order that was wrong. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Artemis glared at the pages again. Each segment was bordered by a solid line. This could represent paragraphs or chapters, but they were not meant to be read in the usual left to right, top to bottom fashion.
Artemis experimented. He tried the Arabic right to left and the Chinese columns. Nothing worked. Then he noticed that each page had one thing in common - a central section. The other pictograms were arranged around this pivotal area. So, a central starting point, perhaps. But where to go from there? Artemis scanned the pages for some other common factor. After several minutes he found it. There was on each page a tiny spearhead in the corner of one section. Could this be an arrow? A direction? Go this way? So the theory would be, start in the middle then follow the arrow. Reading in spirals.
The computer program wasn't built to handle something like this, so Artemis had to improvise. With a craft knife and ruler, he dissected the first page of the Book and reassembled it in the traditional Western languages order - left to right, parallel rows. Then he rescanned the page and fed it through the modified Egyptian translator.
The computer hummed and whirred, converting all the information to binary. Several times it stopped to ask for confirmation of a character or symbol...