Jilliano Romano, blogger at Writer’s Periodical, writes about his favourite YA Novel, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.
I first read the Artemis Fowl series when I had just finished Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books. I was hungry for more. This was about two or three years ago, and I quickly scoured the internet for a series similar to the Skulduggery Pleasant books. I didn’t really care they were YA. In fact, I had no idea what YA was at all. All I knew was that Skulduggery Pleasant was one of my most pleasant experiences in reading a book, and I wanted more of it.
I found the Artemis Fowl series about a week into my search, and within reading the first three chapters, I knew I was hooked. I knew I would sleep late, and I knew I would read the sequel. The protagonist of the Artemis Fowl series is named Artemis Fowl, and he is a teenage criminal mastermind. This concept amazed me. Artemis’ father disappeared after a run-in with one of his more sordid business dealings, and his life has been falling apart. His mother’s wrecked, and her mind is slowly but surely unraveling.
Artemis sinks his teeth into a new obsession – fairies. Legend says that fairies have a pot of gold ready to trade at the chance that one of their kin is exposed and captured by the humans. The mission of this teenage criminal mastermind is to capture his own fairy and ransom her for a pot of gold – to replenish his family’s quickly dwindling fortune – and perhaps to even ask them to heal his mother’s mind.
In the three years that I read Artemis Fowl, the concept and characters has stuck with me. I can’t get it out of my head, really. A criminal for a protagonist? Amazing! YA books have approached the subject of misfit heroes often, but I have yet to see any of them take it as far as this. Let’s just say that Artemis Fowl makes Tom Sawyer look like a good boy that did all he was told.
Accompanying Artemis is his seven foot tall manservant simply named Butler. They’ve tracked down a location where fairies have been known to visit when they’re weak to replenish their health, and they’ve acquired the technology needed to take down the fairy.
Let me tell you about the fairies, then. Contrary to popular belief, Eoin Colfer spins an awesome story of how fairies rely as much on technology as humans do. The fairy Artemis ends up kidnapping is Holly Short of the LEPRecon team. Yeah, I thought it was clever, as well. She has a good reputation for actually making it to such a harsh faction of their law enforcement agencies. Think of them as the CIA on steroids. (Or on sugar, if you’re underaged.)
Holly really is a great counterpoint to Artemis. Where Artemis is not physically fit and relies on Butler – who is a great character, by the way -, she is full of life and kicks goblin butt. You heard me. She is, in my opinion, one of the best female characters in all of fantasy. Why? She’s not a cardboard cut out. She doesn’t kick ass no matter what, nor does she lose no matter what. It feels real. This is, in a way, the Game of Thrones of the YA world. In terms of realism, of course. They’re not similar at all in setting.
There are other characters, as well, but I can’t describe them as well as the book can. If I try to describe them, I’d probably end up misleading you entirely. Eoin Colfer writes about people – they may be dwarves, leprechauns, centaurs, and seven feet tall bodyguards – but I can’t explain them all within a reasonable amount of time.
Now, the big question that’s on everyone’s mind – does the rest of the series deliver? Yes. Each book has a storyline that can walk and talk and fight on its own. It doesn’t rely on the greatness of the first book. I feel that each book surpasses the last one. Now, a question that some parents may ask is: Is this really suitable for teenagers?
I can see why you would think that it’s not. The main character is a criminal mastermind, after all. I would agree, as well, if it weren’t for the ending of the first book and the other books of the series. The ending was heartbreaking – you realize that it’s really a tale of how a kid would cope without his parents.
Now, I’m not saying that every kid would try to kidnap a fairy to get gold… but he wanted the gold so he and his mother could live comfortably and not have to worry about being kicked out. He also wanted the gold so that he would have unlimited funds in finding his father. If you ask me, that’s pretty suitable for teenagers. The rest of the series is basically him improving. He slowly resorts to altruistic pursuits, helps friends, saves the world ( not that that matters), and it’s not unrealistic about it. It’s a slow process, as it should be. And his personality doesn’t do a complete 180 and he suddenly becomes the nicest boy at the school.
A question some older adults may ask is: Will we still enjoy this despite it being YA?
Perfectly understandable. I ask people that every time they refer me to a YA book. It’s not that YA is an inferior genre or anything, but I’m really quite enamored with the gritty realism of A Song of Ice and Fire, or the Night Angel Trilogy, or even the Mistborn Trilogy. So, should you go in expecting the main character to die at the end, or for the main character’s best friend (won’t tell you who he is) to betray him, as it would in most books like Game of Thrones? No. This is for young adults, however, should you expect three dimensional characters with unique quirks? Yes. I’ll break my vow of not telling you anything more about the characters, and give you a brisk description of one of the main cast.
Mulch Diggums is an experienced burglar hired by the LEPRecon to tunnel into Artemis’ mansion. Oh, and he just got out of prison and he’s a dwarf. If that isn’t unique, then… Well, what is?
Will it be to everyone’s tastes? Of course not. For example, I have a friend that read the first two books, and he said that it was all good. The story, characters, concept – all of it was good. Why didn’t he like it? He just couldn’t explain it. Some books have something that some people love and some people find that devoid in the favorite books of their best friend. That’s how books are. (Unfortunately.)
I would suggest that you give it a try, though. I like Harry Potter as much as the next guy, but this… THIS!.. is fresh and unique. It took something like leprechauns, dwarves, and fairies and made someone like me – who prefers deadly mercenaries and assassins – love them all.
How is the prose? Eoin Colfer doesn’t condescend its readers. In fact, I had to use the dictionary once or twice in some of the last books. It’s not at Robin Hobb level – but then again, what is? This is my favorite YA book, and I would say that, among the YA books I’ve read, it’s certainly at the tip top.
You can follow Jilliano on twitter @Jilliano_Romano or check out her blog here. Next week, we have Maria Hughes, who you can follow at @WritingMaria on Twitter, and you can check out the Children’s Bookstore website that she contributes to here.