I was sceptical of this book, however I was pleasantly surprised by it. Far from the expected spoiled rich brat who just wants his own way in everything, Artemis is cool, smooth, clever, and doesn't just want to please himself. His father (supposedly) perished at the hands of criminals after which they robbed him of his enormous fortune. Though not exactly out for revenge, Artemis wants to return his family fortune to its former glory - no matter the method. And this is where being twelve years old comes to his advantage.
Young enough to believe most things, Artemis is convinced in the existence of fairies. After extensive research and globetrotting, he turns out to be correct. He locates the whereabouts of a fairy and steals the sacred book of their laws from her, with the design of kidnapping a fairy when one comes to the chosen place of renewing their powers. It is here he ends up kidnapping Holly Short, an LEPrecon officer, and that's when all hell breaks loose below ground - the realm of fairies.
The book is well paced, and kept me interested the whole way, which is a good thing. Reading about young criminal masterminds isn't something that really grabs me, and good reasoning had to be foundational for me to like it. The author played the balance between guilt about what he was doing and passion for restoring his father's legacy very well; it was subtle enough to pick up on but not in your face. I also loved the humour. Eoin Colfer's good old Irish snark shone through with hilarious brilliance. The fairies were also incredibly well done. Most of the time when you ask someone, "think fairy", the first image is something fluttery, twinkly and pretty. Not so in the world of Fowl. They are tough underground little people with quick wits, trim uniforms, and futuristic technology. Their high-tech weapons and flying machines makes them highly militarized, and I was impressed by the extent of their underground cities and "airports" to the surface. The world really was breathtaking.
However it was not without flaws. I found some places to describe things a bit crudely, especially some of the underground creatures' habits. The cast isn't solely of humans and fairies, but a great many other mythical beings are included, and as such, aren't all as "nice" as others. There was no bad language, however I did have a chuckle that Colfer had invented a fairy cuss word (D'arvit). That's not something I've come across before, but I thought worked well in the setting.
All in all, it was a fun read - high tech speculative fantasy has earned a win for me with Artemis Fowl. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
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