Friday, June 09, 2006

Artemis Fowl

This children's best seller and modern-day semi-classic by Eoin Colfer has, until now, not really been on my radar. Although I have always been a fan of children's literature, both picture books and chapter books, this one came along after my children were out of the market, so I'm a little behind. Of course, I have read the Harry Potter series and the Princess Diaries series, even The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (not the series, one was enough), but I am a little skeptical of what passes for children's literature these days (she said as she adjusted her hearing aid). Too many people who ought to know better are recommending, or even requiring, books that offer depressing themes and plots guaranteed to cause nightmares.

But, well, Artemis Fowl drifted across my radar, and I read it, albeit with one eyebrow lifted. It sounded too much like Inkheart, frankly, and I found Inkheart's tone so depressing I finally just skipped to the end and got rid of it. And indeed, as I started the first chapter of Artemis Fowl, with Artemis being this millionaire genius criminal-mastermind-in-the-making, I was pretty sure it would be dismal and/or amoral. Fortunately, it was neither. I really did like it, after all.

Yes, Artemis is a budding criminal, although he's only twelve and still in school. But his attempted crime (and does he succeed? sorry, spoiler.) is on a scale that takes it firmly into the realm of fantasy, so any would-be copycat criminals will struggle to find a way to plunder the leprechaun's legendary golden hoard. At the same time, the morality of crime and of Artemis himself is gently examined, adding richness and texture to the characters and plot, instead of dwindling into a heavy-handed morality tale.

The cast of characters is relatively small. Artemis Fowl has a few allies--Butler, his personal servant; Juliet, Butler's sister, and Angeline, Artemis's mother. There are rather more on the magical side of things, predominantly fairies, with the occasional troll, goblin and dwarf.

All in all, I approve. I'm already eying the first sequel.


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