Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

by Eoin Colfer

Published by Viking Children's Books

277 pages, 2002


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Running A-fowl of Magic

Reviewed by Robert Lightbody

 

Harry Potter and his creator, J.K.Rowling, may be the publishing world's latest literary sensations, however waiting in the wings and snapping at the young wizard's heels is Eoin Colfer's anti-hero Artemis Fowl, who has been making his own magical waves around the globe.

Eoin Colfer's first book, Artemis Fowl, was subtitled Diehard With Fairies, and the description was not far wrong. With gun-toting fairies at the turn of each page, magic mixed with cutting-edge technology, martial arts trained bodyguards and rampaging trolls to boot, the book was a nonstop thrill ride. Months before its publication, Artemis Fowl sparked a worldwide publishing frenzy with both publishers and film companies vying for the rights to the book and its subsequent sequels. Comparisons have undoubtedly been drawn to the Harry Potter books, which I grant you are fantastic in their own right. But move over Harry: there's a new kid on the block and he's not taking any prisoners.

In the first book we were introduced to child mastermind genius and part-time criminal Artemis Fowl who managed to cheat the fairy kingdom out of a substantial portion of their legendary gold in order to finance the search for his father. It was a book packed with magic, mayhem, mastermind plans and plenty of explosions -- a lot to live up to.

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, the second book in Eoin Colfer's series, is not so much Diehard this time around but more 007. It's a world-spanning adventure that stretches from Ireland to Los Angeles with stopovers in Paris and Russia's Arctic Circle. It's all more than a little reminiscent of all those James Bond adventures.

In The Arctic Incident plot strands from the debut novel are further fleshed out. Artemis continues the search for his missing father, who he learns is being held in the former USSR by the Russian Mafia. Meanwhile, in the fairy kingdom, trouble is brewing in the form of a revolt from the goblins that are threatening to overturn fairy society, with treacherous inside help. Former enemies Artemis Fowl and LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance) police officer Holly Short, the heroine of the previous book, are forced to work together to solve each of their problems with help from all the old favorites from the first book, including the flatulent dwarf Mulch Diggums, the technology wizard, centaur Foaly, seasoned LEPrecon commander Root and, of course, Artemis' faithful bodyguard and martial arts supremo, Butler.

After the success of the first book, Eoin Colfer had a lot to live up to in his second Artemis Fowl outing. It's a pleasure to be able to report, however, that book two is as refreshing and innovative as the first. The humor in the book is spot on and the way that Colfer manages to, once again, reinterpret established traits surrounding the fairy world with his own modern perspective is nothing short of brilliant. He creates a dazzling world of high-tech-equipped fairies with jet-propelled wings and heavy duty weapons, not to mention their transportation shuttles that travel through the Earth's crust on thermal updrafts, that far outstrip the advances of their human neighbors who they refer to as Mudmen.

One of the big plus points for the book and its predecessor is that they are simply written and easy-to-follow, they don't overburden you with unnecessary descriptive prose, yet they never lose their ability to capture your attention with locations, which stretch from the underground fairy kingdoms (Lower Elements) to the snow blizzard swept wastelands of Russia. Here again, Eoin Colfer proves himself a master of the "less is more" theory. Colfer also manages to touch on issues of environmental importance such as pollution and nuclear waste without preaching about their importance. He reveals issues which are obviously close to his heart in the context of how they affect the fairy kingdom -- informative and clever.

It's also good to see that the characters are expanded upon and explored in more depth, especially Artemis who is not simply just shown as an aspiring arch-villain. We get to see beneath his criminal façade and at times, especially in his relationship with Holly and Butler, see that there is a child in Artemis, despite his penchant for criminal mastermind scams.

If the Harry Potter phenomenon left you behind, book yourself a seat on the Artemis Fowl express because you can guarantee everyone will soon know his name. | July 2002

 

Robert Lightbody is an entertainment journalist working in London, who writes for magazines around the world. He likes books that stoke the imagination and leave you with that "something special" long after you have read the last line.