Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

I haven’t been up to date much with reading in recent months what with work picking up and working on my own projects, and it took me over a month to finish my last book. Easter weekend is always a time to sit and relax for me and I tend to go for something a bit lighthearted when I have a weekend of reading. I thought a comedy fantasy YA novel that had been on my Kindle for the best part of three years would be ideal. But does it deliver?

Artemis Fowl is a spoilt millionaire, just 12 years old, too intelligent and astute for his own good and a wannabe criminal mastermind. Many years before, he learnt about the magical world and sets out abducting a fairy, one very fesity Captain Holly Short of a kind of Police unit called LEPrecon. These fairies are quite unpleasant but they do have magical powers that Fowl covets for himself. The blurb promises lots of “unexpected twists and turns” and a “riveting, magical adventure.”

Twists and turns it does have, but it’s not overly complex and the tone and style is pitched right for the audience. In some ways it feels like an old style boys adventure story with a hefty dose of modern urban fantasy, silly humour (along the lines of Rankin, Pratchett and Gaiman) and the style is just right too. So why did I come away from what as an enjoyable read, with an attitude of complete ambivalence? Because it didn’t quite get the mix right, it didn’t quite work for me in the way I would have liked. The tone of writing feels almost too young for starters, I kept wishing for a more sophisticated narrative and dialogue.

Sadly, and despite that this is primarily marketed as humour, I’m afraid I had few genuine laugh out loud moments. It’s not that I found it unfunny, it’s full of quick wit, irony, sarcasm and most other forms of humour. I think the problem is that the book tried just a little too hard and as a result it didn’t quite come off as well or flow as naturally as a Pratchett or a Robert Rankin. It is also assumed at a younger sense of humour than my tastes too.

It is, however, a great introduction to the world of fantasy and crime for a young adult audience while omitting the sappy romance for which the genre is known, or the deeper meaning of something like The Hunger Games. This is just a fun read that doesn’t require a lot of thinking but remains a clever little tale nonetheless. There are more books in this series but I am ambivalent about reading any more of them.

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