How does one do justice to an entire eight-book series that practically defined my childhood? I don’t know how, but I’m going to try. AF is one of those books that captured me as a child and I obsessively stalked the Internet for release dates and subsequently obsessively stalked the local Borders and Kinokuniya so I could buy it. I have been a Colfer fan since I was 11. A couple of days ago I mentioned that I picked up a book…or several…and emerged dazed and confused…”what year is it?” Those books were the Artemis Fowl books. Caught in a fit of nostalgia, I felt the urge to pick up the books again and well, it was a fantastic ride. I’m working my way backwards through the series right now and I’m finishing up The Lost Colony (Book 5).
What exactly is so compelling about Artemis Fowl? I’m a huge sucker for book series, because in series you can see your favourite characters grow and learn; I swoon for
“I was a broken boy, and you fixed me. Thank you.” – The Last Guardian
From villain/anti-hero to somewhat reluctant hero to sacrificing his life for the world; Artemis’ growth throughout the series is remarkable, and so much more appealing than Harry Potter, the Boy Destined to Save the World. Born into a family empire of crime, Artemis Fowl is the Boy Destined to Ruin the World, and so when he sacrifices himself in the last book, in the same place where we see the epitome of his evil in the first book (ie Fowl Manor), I can’t help but be struck by the poetic transformation of this character; and it even evokes a somewhat maternal reaction. Aww, mummy’s little boy is all grown up.
I could talk all day about Artemis Fowl, and of course not to forget the other characters in the story. But my favourite thing about this series is his transformation. And I see it in the battles he fights in each subsequent story. I see it as this:
Book 1 (Artemis Fowl): Artemis is the villain (fights for evil)
Book 2 (The Arctic Incident): Artemis fights for his father
Book 3 (The Eternity Code): Artemis fights for his creations (his technology), takes responsibility for his actions
Book 4 (The Opal Deception): Artemis fights for his memories, his friendships
Book 5 (The Lost Colony): Artemis fights one of his own kind (child genius)
Book 6 (The Time Paradox): Artemis fights himself (his younger, Book 1 self)
Book 7 (The Atlantis Complex): Artemis fights himself (his own mind, his guilt)
Book 8 (The Last Guardian): Artemis fights evil
In this progression from Books 1-7, we see Artemis turning increasingly inward into himself as he battles to save the world time and time again. The evils he fights become closer and closer to home, closer and closer to himself – and crucially – closer and closer to the evil that he exemplified as an anti-hero in Book 1. This is especially so from Book 5 onwards (possibly why the last 4 books are my favourite). By battling himself, by overcoming the evil within him; that is the only way that the Artemis of Book 8 can emerge to truly save the world once and for all.
A lot of my friends tell me they used to love Artemis Fowl as a kid, but then ‘outgrew’ it, or they just didn’t like the subsequent books. Perhaps, yes, as an older person now, the fart jokes don’t really cut it. But at the heart of the AF series is the transformation of a boy – the transformation of a boy which was evoked because he found friends, and found value in his relationships; and they found value in him. While there are hints at romantic tension, nothing is ever outright, leaving friendship to be the true romance of the story. In the raging ocean of YA fiction where the main thrust seems to be ‘will they won’t they’ ‘Team Jacob/Team Edward’, this series stands out as heartwarming and sweet.
Or perhaps I’m just a nostalgic old fool.