Not your storybook fairies: Artemis Fowl

artemisfowlArtemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer (lexile: 600; AR book level: 5.0; 277 pp)

The fairy world is real, but these are not your storybook fairies of Tinkerbell and pixie dust.  They’re high-tech, sophisticated, and powerful, and centuries ago moved their entire civilization underground to avoid discovery by the “Mudmen” — that’s us.

One human, however, has discovered their existence: Artemis Fowl, 12-year-old criminal mastermind, genius, millionaire, and scion of a wealthy Irish family.  And Artemis has determined to restore his family’s failing fortunes by taking advantage of fairy rules.  If he can capture one, the fairies will be obliged to pay one ton of gold in ransom.

Artemis takes on more than he realizes, though, when he and his bodyguard, Butler (who “can kill you a hundred different ways without the use of weapons”), kidnap Holly Short, captain of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Recon Unit).  She’s tough and smart, and together with friends Underground she may just be a match for Artemis.

The story is a fast-paced, fun mixture of magic and high-tech gadgetry, with memorable and likeable characters like Foaly the computer-geek centaur and Mulch Duggums, a kleptomaniac dwarf with a powerful digestive system.

Some reviewers dislike Artemis because he’s not much of a hero — he’s self-centered, cocky, and cold.  But he is still appealing, and so blatantly narcissistic that no reader who is not already a young millionaire genius is going to look to him as a role model.  And Artemis’ story doesn’t end with this first book.  One of the things I love about the series is the obvious transformation of Artemis Fowl into a much different young man, until the moving and powerful climax of the last book.  If you like Artemis, stick with him for a few books, and discover that it’s how you finish that really matters.  The other books, in order:

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