21 June 2014

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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Fairies. Leprechauns. Centaurs. Trolls. Magic. These concepts are anything but new to the modern readers. Every culture has its personal legends about mystical and magical creatures, fascinating people for generations. But legends told and retold can soon lose the magic from their storytelling. In his novel, Artemis Fowl, Irish author Eoin Colfer provides a fresh perspective of these tales, avoiding the age-old clichés. A young-adult fantasy novel, Artemis Fowl introduces its readers to a fantastical world situated within the context of the modern-day world. Colfer’s familiar world, wrought with imagination, provides a useful setting for his exploration of the timeworn tales.

In a contemporary world lives Artemis Fowl – a genius, a criminal mastermind and a 12-year-old boy. Obviously not the average preadolescent, Artemis discovers what few humans could ever believe – the existence of fairies. Equipped with the intellect of an adult, the imagination of a child and the determination to restore his family’s lost fortune, only he would dare to rob the mythologized fairy folk of their coveted gold. But separating a fairy from its gold is no cavalier undertaking. Yet, perhaps foolhardily so, Artemis is just crazy enough to attempt it (and already presume his success).

The modern fairy civilization has long distanced itself from the buckled shoes and knickerbockers of traditional folklore. Nowadays, driven deep underground by the overbearing human presence found aboveground, fairies uphold a cautious, protected and technologically-advanced existence, leagues ahead of their human counterparts. A complex set of races – elves, gnomes, sprites, goblins, dwarves, pixies, centaurs and more – lives somewhat peaceably together in an underground city, the Lower Elements, near the Earth’s core. Here, in the Lower Elements, leprechauns are no longer little old men sitting at the end of a rainbow, counting their golden coins, but instead LEPrecons – members of the highly-prestigious reconnaissance unit of the Lower Elements Police. Centaurs can design the most advanced of technology, dwarves are known for their powerful and noxious flatulence and goblins shoot fireballs from their nostrils. In the hands of Colfer, the classic mythical anecdotes acquire new quirks and twists – to the delight of the readers.

Yet, even with the luxuries and securities of their advanced society, the fairies never quite rid themselves of an unwanted and unpleasant human influence – though not for lacking of trying. The fairy existence revolves around the surface of the Earth and the human society it contains, for fairy civilization, though portrayed as the far superior entity, constantly fears detection. After years of antagonistic interaction aboveground, which spawned the various long-lasting legends, fairies learned that the two civilizations could not possibly coexist amiably. Now, to avoid further conflict, the fairy civilization does everything possible to remain a well-hidden secret.

But Artemis breaches the boundaries between human and fairy. He is determined to bring the two civilizations together again – for his own selfish gain, of course. So, after capturing a careless elf, Holly Short, Artemis begins his unsympathetic relationship with the fairy race, manipulating and conniving in pursuit of his golden ransom. As the back-and-forth antics of fairy and human intensify, it becomes evident that Artemis may have finally met his match – to the readers’ chagrin or, perhaps, pleasure. Colfer encourages his reader to explore the realms of common folklore as it interacts with humanity. Who should the readers support? Fairy or human? Who do they want to win? In this action-filled and wittily humorous novel, Colfer keeps his readers hooked until the very end, always questioning, waiting, wanting answers to the questions only they can answer.

[Note: This is a review of Artemis Fowl I wrote ages ago in school. I am posting it now for no other reason than I love this book and felt like sharing its greatness.]

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