Grade: Γ — Good book within the genre. Solid story, good characters, if you like this genre, read this book.
A solid piece of mid-grade comic crime fiction placed in a modern fantasy setting. The protagonist is twelve-year-old criminal genius who begins his crime spree by taking on an elite division of the fairy police force: the LEP Recon. Sound like a ridiculous premise, even for a mid-grade reader? It is, and that is part of the fun. Colfer manages to pull it off very well, and this book sets up a world and series that promises to entertain throughout its duration, assuming, of course, that you like mid-grade reading.
Modern day world, mostly Ireland, with supernatural elements present.
Artemis Fowl (Book One) is a fun, simple read (or listen) that does exactly what it says on the tin. Picking up on that great market whose doors were burst open by J.K. Rowling, it is designed for nine to twelve year olds, and it delivers very well for that audience. Unlike the Harry Potter series, however, it doesn’t have quite the adult appeal that really made those works so universally successful.
On the other hand, it has some literary features which are more sophisticated then the illustrious Potter series. For one thing, the principal protagonist, Artemis Fowl, is an anti-hero in the mould of a twelve year old Moriarty, though with the emotional baggage of any other boy-on-the-edge-of-manhood. As a wealthy, well loved and extremely well educated Irish super-villain in the making, he breaks stereotypes and avoids many of the more classic trope-traps. To my knowledge (and I will fully admit that my knowledge of midgrades is quite restricted), he is the only such post-modern protagonist aimed at the mid-grade audience. Other elements of the plot and story are also very well done and would not only entertain young readers, but help build a better developed literary capacity in them.
What is more, this is an essentially comic tale, more like a Tom Holt novel aimed at kids than anything Rowlings produced. To that end, comparisons to Potter are really quite limited.
On the negative side, I feel that Colfer spends just a little too much time in each chapter recapping what has happened in previous chapters, even for a nine-year old audience. Many of the chapters begin by noting what the characters have already experienced, and while this is done in a skillful manner, it may be a bit over the top.
Still, I enjoyed the work and while I won’t rush out to get the next volume in the series, I certainly understand why others might, particularly those young readers to avidly seek something worthy of their attention.
Notes About Audio Edition:
The audio edition of this work does full justice to the novel itself. The book is skillfully narrated by Nathaniel Parker, who manages to produce a variety of voices and accents (oh its SOOOO nice to hear Irish accents that actually sound Irish) that add to the narration rather than distract from the story. I will be keeping my ear open for other works he has done in the future.