Eoin Colfer’s latest addition to his award-winning ‘Artemis Fowl’ series proved to be as popular as ever, winning the Children’s literature category in the 2011 IBW awards.
Artemis Fowl is the most unlikely teenager to be found in fiction: a highly sophisticated individual, impeccably dressed, with an astonishing vocabulary, who just happens to be a criminal mastermind operating alongside technologically advanced subterranean fairy-folk in an unlikely relationship which blossomed in the aftermath of his abduction of a senior fairy reconnaissance officer.
His latest adventure sees Artemis make contact with the fairy folk to promote a new, environment saving technology, the consequences of which quickly lead to him once again battling evil fairies set to expose their world to the humans and destroy their old enemies (in which category Artemis and his crew feature prominently). However, this is an adventure with a twist; Artemis is suffering from Atlantis Complex (or magic-induced multiple-personality disorder), with his alter ego as a romantic knight-in-shining-armour with his mind set more on impressing his fairy colleague Holly Short rather than saving the world.
As the reader become immersed in this latest escapade, which features more of the same great technological marvels, laugh-out-loud moments and random giant crustacean encounters Colfer’s audience have come to expect, we are constantly left wondering whether Artemis can save the fairy underworld before his own mind consumes him.
The seventh book in the series had much to live up to; so how does it measure up?
Aside from another well-written take on the popular approach of ‘human child-genius and his companions save the fairy world from disaster’, the main thing setting this book apart in the series so far is that Colfer tries a different approach to his established character base.
Firstly, Colfer separates Artemis from his bodyguard and constant companion Butler, which already feels ‘wrong’ to begin with and gives this book a different flavour right from the start. Also, because the novel sees three separate storylines following different groups of characters weaving together, this does not leave as much opportunity as usual for Colfer’s creations to bounce off one another in the engaging way readers have come to appreciate – although it must be said that this does work entertainingly well once they finally do get together 2/3 of the way through the story.
Secondly, by subjecting Artemis to a mental disorder, Colfer is making an infallible character fallible; until now, Artemis was a criminal antihero, who somehow managed to outsmart everything he came up against. But now he is being beaten by himself. Whilst this is undoubtedly clever as regards Artemis’ character development, showing that the only thing that can best this genius is himself, it turns expectations upside down as the mastermind the stories led us to believe is superhuman is brought down to earth with a resounding crash.
Although I appreciate the author’s enterprise in trying something different this time ‘round and not just sticking to a successful formula, it seems to me that the new approach does not work as well as it compromises on some of the series’ most distinguishing elements. That said, Colfer’s latest contribution to the Artemis Fowl saga makes for a light and entertaining penultimate story in the series, and makes me wonder what on/under Earth he will think up next…