Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer (2001)

Artemis Fowl is billed as a children's book, like Harry Potter, and like that 600-lb gorilla of the genre, it makes perfectly acceptable reading for adults. The premise of the book (and of subsequent sequels, one assumes), is that young Artemis Fowl is a criminal genius in a world where magic and superscience exist, if not by side-by-side, at least in the same universe. Fowl is on the mad scientist side of the equation, his nemesis, Holly Short, is on the magic side - although even as a Faerie in the employ of the Lower Elements Police, Recon (or LEPRecon) Captain Short makes full use of superscience. The appeal of the book lies in the interesting world created by Colfer for his characters to inhabit and in those characters themselves.

Comparisons to Harry Potter are inevitable. If the books lacks the epic scope of the Harry Potter books, they compensate with a darker tone (darker, at least, than the first few Potter books) and with tighter plotting.

Colfer's writing is good, drawing on numerous genres for inspiration and melding them into an engrossing whole. The book reads almost like a hard-boiled police procedural or thriller, toned down a bit for a younger audience, and with magic and a twelve year-old protagonist thrown in. It's an eclectic mix, but one that works.

It is interesting that Fowl is a master criminal. Unlike most heroes of books aimed for this crowd, he is not a good, upright but misunderstood hero in waiting (cf. Harry Potter, etc.), he's a villain. At the same time, he's a young boy trying to make his way in the adult world, with reasonable success, which is a very appealing image.

Overall Grade: B

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