A book review for parents
This fantasy adventure book is the first in the "Artemis Fowl" series by Eoin Colfer and is published by Talk Miramax Books, a division of Hyperion Books for Children.
Artemis Fowl is written for kids ages 10 and older. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Artemis Fowl the Second is a 12-year-old evil genius. With his father missing and his mother out of her mind with grief, Artemis uses his time and freedom to rebuild the family fortune by hunting for the gold at the end of the rainbow. After procuring and translating a fairy's sacred text, Artemis, with the help of his hulking assistant, Butler, captures a leprechaun and holds her for ransom. The sprite, Holly Short, is one of the first female officers in the Lower Elements Police reconnaissance unit (LEPrecon). Her commanding officer and his team rush to her rescue and battle Artemis and Butler, with both sides employing contrivances from high-tech weaponry to flatulent dwarves and hungry trolls. Artemis secretly strikes a deal with Holly, allowing her to return half of the ransom gold to her people if she will heal his mother. Once Holly is outside of the Fowl mansion, the LEPrecon team sends in a bio-bomb that will kill everything inside. Artemis drugs himself, Butler, and Butler's sister, Juliet, so they can survive the bomb. Artemis is pleased to find his mother cured when he awakens, but he realizes her supervision will make it more difficult for him to carry out his evil schemes in the future.
An informant, frightened by Artemis, prays the information he has for the boy is correct.
Artemis comes from a long line of criminals. The family amassed a fortune, but his father, Artemis Fowl the First, (now missing and presumed dead), lost it in dealings with the Russian mafia. Artemis' mother has been bedridden for a year since her husband's disappearance. She takes a lot of sleeping pills and isn't in her right mind until the story's conclusion. The narrator suggests that Butler, whose family members have long been trained to be assistants to the Fowls, is the closest thing Artemis has to a father. Butler unswervingly protects his young master, whom he completely trusts and obeys, but he doesn't dare discipline the boy or suggest how Artemis should behave.
Other Belief Systems
Fairies, trolls, dwarves and other creatures from within the earth play roles in this magic-filled story. Holly and other fairies have the gift of tongues and powers to heal, mesmerize and shield (or vibrate at a high frequency so they can't be seen). The fairy bible, called The Booke of the People, includes their history (referred to as their old testament) and provides 10 commandments for them to live by. It also warns that their power will wane if the words are not heeded. The Booke of the People suggests that fairies once had wings, but evolution stripped them of this power. It further indicates they were descended from airborne dinosaurs. Fairies must complete a ritual to renew their power, which involves planting an acorn. They have the power to stop time, a task that used to be easier when humans weren't as techno-savvy and simply blamed the gods for time lapses. In the old days, five elfin warlocks formed a pentagram around their target and put a magic shield over it to stop time. Fairy technology, which is far ahead of human advancements, allows the fairies to wipe out human memories. Artemis' research shows him that the first human stories were written about fairies, suggesting that their civilization pre-dates humans. He also believes the Egyptians modified the existing "scripture" of the fairies to suit their needs. When Holly first hears the name "Artemis Fowl," she believes it is a bad omen, and fairy intuition is never wrong. The informant who tells Artemis how to find a fairy book regrets having mixed crime and magic. In a tough situation, Artemis takes deep breaths to find his chi. When an angry goblin tells Mulch the dwarf that it was fortune, not luck, that delivered Mulch into his hands, Mulch decides not to argue the notion that luck and fortune are basically the same thing.
The fairies often curse (without swear words appearing in the text) and frequently use the expletive D'Arvit, which the narrator says he won't translate because it would have to be censored. The words d---n and h--- appear several times. Artemis says G-- knows and fairies say Oh g--s. A few phrases stop just short of using expletives. Both Artemis' team and the sprites use powerful and high-tech weaponry, including knives, guns, grenades, bombs and the like. (The author has referred to the "Artemis" books as "Die Hard with fairies.") A number of battles take place, frequently resulting in bloodshed or bodies strewn about. When someone tries to pick Butler's pocket, Butler breaks the man's fingers. Goblins shoot fireballs at Mulch when they rumble in a jail cell, and Mulch traps a goblin in his jaws. A troll brutally attacks and nearly kills Butler.
ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2003; NJLA Teen Book Award, 2004, The New York Times Bestseller, 2003 and others
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What part do rules play in this story?
What are some of the rules the humans and fairies live by?
How do the rules prevent certain characters from achieving their goals?
What are some things different characters do to get around the rules?
Why do you have rules you're expected to follow, at home, at school and elsewhere?
What are some of those rules?
What purpose do they serve?
- In what ways does Artemis act and seem like an adult?
In what ways does he still behave like a child?
- What is Artemis' goal in translating the fairy book?
Is he just after gold?
How do you feel about his desire to learn a new language so he can exploit a new group of people?
- What are Artemis' initial impressions about fairies?
How does that change in light of his interactions with Holly?
Have you ever had negative first impressions about someone that changed after you got to know the person better?
- How does Butler respond when Artemis tells him the Fowl mansion is about to be bio-bombed?
Why doesn't he grill the boy about how he (Artemis) plans to handle the situation?
How does Butler react when he realizes Artemis has drugged his drink?
If you were Butler, would you have had enough faith in Artemis to simply say, "I trust you."?
Is there anyone in your life you trust that completely?
If so, what causes you to trust him or her?
- What kind of man is Butler?
Is he a good role model for Artemis? Explain your answer.
- Why does Holly heal Artemis and Butler, her enemies?
Why is she concerned for Juliet?
How does she respond to the idea of lost lives, even if they're the lives of people she's battling?
What does this tell you about her character?
- Will Artemis always be evil?
Which of his actions help you believe that he will or won't always be evil?
Which of his thoughts or behaviors indicate he has a conscience, even if he doesn't want anyone to know it?
When does he recognize that his own arrogance has compromised his mission?
- What impressions do the fairies have of humans?
(You can prompt your child by asking about pollution, lead-based paint, whales, etc.)
What does Holly say that humans will have to answer for?
What does Commander Root call people?
What are some of the human behaviors they find particularly offensive?
Why do they view humans as careless with the environment?
Do you agree or disagree with their remarks?
Explain why it is or isn't true that humans can't get along with others, or themselves.
What things about humanity are good that Holly, Root and the other fairies don't consider?
Alcohol use: The fairy who lets Artemis see her sacred book is a drunk. She will do anything for alcohol, so Butler and Artemis bribe her with a bottle of Irish whisky. After she's had some, Artemis tells her it is holy water, which will kill her. Mulch the dwarf likes the soil beneath the wine cellar because it is still full of wine. Artemis pours three glasses of champagne for him, Butler and Juliet, supposedly to celebrate their victory over the fairies. He's really spiking the champagne with sleeping pills so that he and his friends will somehow avoid the deadly effects of the impending bio-bomb. Artemis acknowledges that he's a minor but says he's sure his mother wouldn't mind just this once.
Other substances: Butler shoots an antidote to the holy water into the drunk fairy's arm with his syringe gun. Butler and Artemis use a tranquilizer dart to capture Holly. The troll who attacks Butler injects some sort of narcotic into the man with his tusks. Commander Root, Holly's LEPrecon supervisor, frequently smokes noxious fungus cigars. Shady, not entirely sober dock workers roll cigarettes while aiding in illegal activity.
Lying: Artemis lies to his mother to calm her when she's in her non-lucid state. He also lies to Holly about how long he's had her as his captive. Holly lies to her commanding officer, telling him she's performed the power-renewing ritual when she hasn't. Mulch the dwarf fakes his death so he won't be sent back to jail.
Bathroom humor: Male dwarves, like the one called in to rescue Holly, chew through soil and metabolize it very quickly. This results in powerful and damaging dwarf flatulence, which is discussed and elaborated upon several times. A couple of Holly's team members vomit, one inside his helmet while he's wearing it.
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