By Eoin Colfer
Artemis is a twelve year old criminal genius. What else would you expect from the Fowl crime family? Artemis' father has been missing, and the fortune is dwindling. Not that they have to worry about money, but Artemis is worried about the family prestige, so he decides to kidnap a fairy, hold it for ransom, and restore the family honor. What could be simpler? Well, probably anything.
A few things to note. The author's name is pronounced "Owen." I've called him "Eee-oh-in" for years, but his website cleared it up for me, and I thought others might be interested. I read this originally in early 2004 (right after the third one in the series came out), and I re-read it this past week for book club. Lastly, my husband wishes he were Artemis Fowl.
I really like this book, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time. Artemis is clever and funny. He really does know his stuff, and other than being rather snooty (probably the result of his immense wealth and knowledge) he is a really fun character to read about. Having read the rest of the series, I thought it was interesting the signs of "humanness" (guilt, humor, etc) that start appearing even in the first book because I don't think that I caught them the first time.
My real favorite character is Butler though. I wish that I had one. Not only is he the size of a mountain and trained to kill in order to keep his watch (ie Artemis) safe, he has a big heart and really does seem to care about his family and Artemis. I also thought he was one of the funniest characters, though I am not sure he is intended to be - he is just so deadpan that I can't help but laugh.
The story itself is very clever. The fairies in this story are not typical fairies, and their use of very advanced technology was really interesting. I thought Foaly (a centaur) was hilarious, and I love that he wears an aluminum foil hat to protect himself from humans. However, I did find their need to constantly talk about pollution (in the air, on food, etc) a little annoying. To clarify, I felt that it was overdone - if he (being the author) had mentioned it once or twice it would be one thing, but he mentions it often.
The writing isn't as strong as some YA fiction out there right now, but the story is fast-paced and clever. There were several parts that left me guessing until the end (at least the first time). Also, it works well as a stand alone. You can't read the other books in the series without reading the first, but you definitely don't have to read the sequels in order to feel the story is complete. This one is both my husband and my favorite in the series (the story gets kind of weird), but if you liked it you should check out the others. The sixth book, The Time Paradox, will be published this summer.