The Artemis Fowl books are often mentioned in the same breath as Harry Potter but aside from being aimed at the same age group and featuring a young boy as the protagonist, there are few similarities. Artemis Fowl is a the son of the head of an old criminal family. He is a boy genius with a bent on illegal acts in the pursuit of money, power, respect or revenge. Or at least, he was. This is the fourth book in the series (I’ve read them all) and Artemis is slowly becoming more compassionate, caring and is losing his desire for criminal activities.
I said that Artemis is the protagonist when there’s a good case for joint ownership of the role. Artemis has a sometime nemesis, sometime collaborator in Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police (LEP) Recon Unit (LEP Recon, leprechaun, get it?). Holly is the best officer in the unit but is prone to taking big risks, disobeying orders and using unorthodox tactics, much to the annoyance of her superiors. One of the jobs of the LEP is to protect the population of the lower elements (the subterranean home of the People — magical races such as dwarves, fairies, goblins, pixies, etc) from detection by humans as well as stopping crimes committed by their own kind. The main difference between Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl is the technology, Colfer relishes it and the People are armed with tech far in advance of our own. The books have been described as ‘James Bond with fairies’.
In The Opal Deception, an old foe who Artemis helped capture, the fiendishly clever Opal Koboi, awakens from a self-induced coma on a mission of revenge. After framing Holly for murder and attempting to kill Artemis and his bodyguard, Butler, she sets out on her main mission: exposing the People’s existence to the humans above and bringing their world’s together while making sure she ends up on top.
All the old characters are back and up to their usual tricks. Though Artemis having had his mind wiped at the end of the last book spends much of this one with no real idea of whether to believe in the People at all. My personal favourite is Mulch Diggums, the charismatic dwarf with more tricks than any magician. He’s blessed with some laugh-out-loud funny lines.
Overall I thought the book was good, though the story was a little skewed, with Artemis not really with it for the first half of the book and his develish dark side all but removed (he’s turning all lovey dovey, care and compassion, I was half expecting him to announce the Fowl Animal Clinic by the end). The death of a major, and much-loved, character early in the book is a little shocking, I kept thinking they might come back somehow. The conclusion also seemed a little bit of a let down, having been outplayed, out maneuvered and out thought by Koboi for most of the book, the ending seemed too easy and a bit of a let down. As this is the fourth book, and partly because Artemis has no memory, their seems to be a lot of reverie, which slows the book down and gives it a wistful air. Not want you want in an action story. Colfer’s sardonic wit shines through and the jokes and laughs are plenty, even in some of the darkest moments. Definitely worth reading if you like action, adventure and laughs, whatever you age.