Back in November of 2018, we saw the first teaser for the Artemis Fowl movie. I had been waiting for that to happen ever since I was a kid, so I was fairly excited! I wrote a short article sharing my excitement, although I was still cautious. When it came to book-to-film adaptations, Disney has a habit of butchering the original work. Still, I wanted to see what they could do!
Then we saw the first trailer and all my hopes instantly evaporated. So, to make myself feel better, I’m going to talk about the book and why it’s great.
Artemis Fowl is one of the most unique fantasy books I’ve ever read. It does a lot to flip typical fantasy tropes on their heads to deliver an interesting, unique story. Most books in this story fall into the typical ‘normal person goes on a journey and becomes a hero’. This one? Our main character is anything but normal and anything but heroic! Even as an adult, this book is still a super unique, fun experience!
Our protagonist is the titular Artemis Fowl, a young super-genius billionaire. After his father vanished and his mother became bed-ridden, the Fowl family name started to descend towards disgrace and poverty. Luckily, Artemis has a plan: to capture a member of an underground civilization of fantasy creatures and hold them hostage for gold. With the help of his butler Butler and Butler’s little sister, along with a carefully laid trap, Artemis captures Holly Short, a fairy, and strip her of her magic. Now Artemis must keep his hostage secure, negotiate with the other fairies, and most importantly: escape with his memories, gold, and his life.
Most books targetted at a younger demographic thrive on simplicity. Good guys are good, bad guys are bad, the main character is the good guy, so on and so forth. Artemis Fowl, on the other hand, refuses to conform to such simplicity.
Artemis is, in a lot of ways, a good person; he’s caring and considerate to his family and friends. However, he’s also a very bad person, being more than willing to resort to kidnapping, bribery, or just straight-up hearting people. He uses his insane intellect for his own selfish gain, often at the expense of others. As far as he’s concerned, the more magical fairies are just means to an end. Tools to be used.
That’s what makes Artemis such a phenomenal main character. He isn’t all good, all bad. He’s a morally gray character, someone just good enough to be admired while being just despicable enough not to be a good role model. It’s incredibly interesting, especially for a story targetted at a younger audience! Plus, it lends itself well to his redemption in later books.
Make no mistake, though. The other characters in this story are just as amazing! Holly Short is a fantastic foil to Artemis; she’s reckless, kind-hearted, and selfless, which makes watching her outwit her captor super interesting! Butler is an excellent sidekick to Artemis, as he carries all that his young master doesn’t: size, brawn, and combat skill. The cast is small, but each member is fleshed out, likable, and interesting!
The premise is also super unique and engaging! A brains VS magic hostage situation where the protagonist is actually the antagonist?! Sign me the fuck up! That idea is just dripping with potential, all of which is fully realized!
Most of it is in the setting. The surface world is fairly bland; it’s just the normal human world. But the underground haven for the fantasy creatures? That one is amazing! The blend of sci-fi and fantasy makes the city feel real, like an ancient civilization truly evolved with the times while still keeping their old ways of life! It makes the fantasy feel distinctly separated from the normality!
Which makes it all the more interesting when the two worlds collide!
The story’s pacing is absolutely flawless! It takes its time, slowly but surely moving through each event at an even, steady incline. Then, at the finale, all the buildup is paid off as everything goes fucking nuts! No event overstays its welcome, nor are they rushed out of the door. Everything gets the time they need to build up, then pay off satisfyingly.
Artemis Fowl is easily one of my favorite books from my youth. It’s fun, engaging, and incredibly unique! If you still haven’t read it, now would be a fantastic time!
Or you could just go watch the movie butcher it when that comes out. That’s an option.