This one’s tough.
I’ve been reading a lot of middle grade, and ‘Artemis Fowl’ came up in my queue. With a strong prologue and even stronger first few chapters, the book really grabbed me. Unfortunately, as I continued to read, the voice changed so much (a pattern I’m noticing more and more in MG) part of me wanted to abandon it. Ultimately I did finish it, and am glad I did, and will read the second book in the series. If it suffers the same patterns of voice and POV shifts as the first, though, I may not get through it.
Prose – Starts strong and engaging, focused on Artemis and his bodyguard, Butler, who are both interesting characters. The voice is appropriate and solid, and the structure is tight. You settle in thinking “OK, this is going to be good.” And then it dramatically shifts. It’s like someone told the author, “This is too serious. We need some wackiness in here!” The narrative begins jumping around, switching POV between half a dozen characters, even within chapters. That’s not bad when done well, but it’s jarring, with some sections feeling so different it’s like they were written by a different author. There is a lot of unneeded repetition (how many times do I need to read the name of Butler’s gun?), and the comedy is often flat and forced. Classic example of a book feeling overwritten.
Once I accepted this is what the book is, the story held me, but I pined for the feel the book had at the beginning.
Story – Artemis Fowl is a boy (12) genius and one step away from a super villain. He kidnaps a fairy, hoping to get his hands on her gold. The fairy hates humans and rails about them in typical fashion, which feels preachy (read – humans are destroying the planet [yawn]). Other fairies come to rescue her, and craziness ensues.
Artemis being a super genius is fun and interesting, but feels a little like cheating (writing young is hard, and Artemis never feels like a 12 year old). To try to make us feel Artemis really is a child, later in the story the writer has him show some emotion regarding his mother, who’s lost her mind (for reasons I won’t mention because spoilers). Those emotions feel a little clunky and out of character, but you can accept it. What’s harder to accept are other characters that suffer inner conflicts that are contrary to everything you’ve learned about them. The biggest example of this is the previously mentioned human-hating kidnapped fairy. The author goes to great lengths to show us how deeply she dislikes the “Mud Men”, yet near the end has her work with them for no reason. It feels really forced.
In the end, the book ties up nicely. Overall the story is inventive and enjoyable – character inconsistencies notwithstanding.
Favorite thing – The tainted fairy we meet in chapter 1. Dark and original. Sets a tone that, unfortunately, is abandoned later.
Least favorite thing – Dirt-eating-and-crapping dwarves. No, that is not a typo. Unnecessary and unfunny.
Overall – Slight recommend. Good enough to make me want to read book 2, but not by much.